Alec Murphy's Commentary:

Posted May 17, 2014 (user submitted)

In the 1990s, Tracy, California went through quite a growth spurt. First Walmart arrived, followed a few years later by the West Valley Mall in the same area... but in between those two milestones, the Tracy Outlets were built.

Opened in 1994, the Tracy Outlets were built in the town's industrial district, surrounded by warehouses and factories with I-205 bordering it on its north side. It opened with more than 30 stores, and was such a popular destination that it actually put a competing outlet mall in nearby Lathrop out of business... but times have changed. Tracy was hurt by the recession, both the West Valley Mall and the Tracy Outlets stumbled and began losing stores. While the West Valley Mall continues to chug along, the Tracy Outlets are a different story.

What began as more than 30 stores has dwindled to five. A large plot of land to the east of the mall, meant for an expansion, remains undeveloped. The mall's longtime owners Prime Outlets sold the center in 2008 to a regional outlet mall company, who attempted to turn the mall around with no success.

When the Livermore Premium Outlets opened in nearby Livermore, most of the remaining tenants (including Vans, Gap, Van Heusen, Oshkosh B'Gosh, Levi's, and G.H. Bass) defected to the new outlet mall. Boasting tenants like California's first Bloomingdale's outlet and luxury brands like Prada and Armani, the Livermore outlets were a death blow to the struggling mall. Northwest Outlets, the mall's owner, fired the mall's staff in January of 2014. The mall's remaining tenants have been told to move out, and the land the mall sits on is now for sale.

A visit to the mall reveals an empty parking lot, with buildings painted in drab mission tones (an attempt by Northwest to "modernize" the center). Lane Bryant, Famous Footwear, and handful of other stores remain for now, with demolition the only likely outcome.

The outlet complex is located directly across from Restoration Hardware's West Coast distribution center, with nearby warehouses housing distribution operations for Orchard Supply Hardware and other major companies. The warehouse sector has been one of Tracy's silver linings in terms of jobs and businesses, with companies like Kellogg's, Best Buy,, and Crate & Barrel operating warehouses throughout the town.

I have no doubt that a similar group of warehouses will rise from the former Tracy Outlets plot. It'll likely bring more jobs and commerce than the Outlets ever did.

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