Fred Bruning doesn’t mince words when describing the current state of Mall 205, the first enclosed shopping center in Oregon when it was built, in 1971.”A dead mall,” said the president of Torrance, Calif.-based Center Oaks Development, which bought the beleaguered property last year in a package deal last year from New York-based First Union Real Estate. “I used to joke that I found the last nickel spent there and it had a buffalo on it.”

Mall 205 is still lacking a pulse, but surgery is imminent. Beginning this fall, a $15 million infusion that includes a completely renovated shell and three new pads fronting Washington Street will add strong new retailers and restaurateurs where now there is old and weak. The changes will displace more than a dozen tenants, but many new jobs will be created, and things will be much improved for those that remain, Bruning said.

Instead of names like Emporium, Montgomery Ward and “a very tired Rite Aid,” Bruning says there’ll be Home Depot, a full-service 24-Hour Fitness and Mars Music, a Tampa, Fla.-based company just beginning to place superstores on the West Coast. Instead of a sea of parking from street to storefronts, Pier One Imports, Red Robin and one other restaurant will add roadside appeal.

Moreover, instead of under $10 million in revenue from the north end of the mall where Emporium and Rite Aid operated, the Home Depot that replaces them should alone generate $110 million in annual sales, Bruning said. Instead of an overall net operating income of $1.6 million, it will generate $4.5 million, he said.

Mars Music, just hitting the West Coast, is a new format seller of musical instruments, recording equipment and pro audio gear with 35 superstores in 27 major markets in 17 states. Popping up in California, Portland and Seattle this year, each 25,000- to 30,000-sf store features a fully-operational stage for performances and clinics, a recording studio and a learning center offering individual, group, and master-level instruction.

Meanwhile, over at Plaza 205, an adjacent property also part of Center Oaks’ package purchase, less significant renovation is planned. A “major, national bookstore” will be added and 40,000-sf will be opened up for a new grocery store. Existign tenants include Jo-Ann Fabrics, Office Max and Bally’s Fitness.

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