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New management of downtown San Francisco mall vows to keep it open, make improvements

Shoppers walk in San Francisco Centre.
Nervous store owners and employees finally met with new management on Wednesday after months of rumors that the struggling Downtown mall was headed for closure. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

Three months after taking over the long-struggling San Francisco Centre, representatives from Trident Pacific Real Estate Group and real estate firm JLL finally had their first face-to-face meeting with the mall’s remaining tenants on Wednesday. 

According to multiple workers who were in attendance, the new management group pledged to continue operating the mall amid widespread rumors that it would be closing after a recent string of high-profile departures

Several workers who asked not to be identified told The Standard the meeting took place on the largely vacant fourth floor of the mall and lasted about 90 minutes. There, the new management group committed to continue staffing more security personnel while trying to attract new businesses to the shopping center.

“It’s only the first meeting, but they seem committed,” a mall worker said. 

READ MORE: Inside The Ailing San Francisco Centre, Store Owners Pray for a Turnaround

When asked about how they would improve foot traffic until then, the management group told attendees that they are looking into live programming, such as music and art shows, to reactivate dormant parts of the mall, sources said. The group also committed to engaging with local media to spread the word that the mall is still open. 

Representatives for Trident Pacific and JLL did not respond to The Standard’s requests for comment on the meeting.

security guard stands in front of store
A private security guard stands in front of a store inside San Francisco Centre. The new management group told shop owners and mall employees that they were committed to employing more security personnel. | Source: Camille Cohen for The Standard

As the property’s custodian, Trident Pacific has the authority to manage, reposition and potentially sell the property. Previous owners Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and Brookfield Properties defaulted on the mall in June. 

Soon after its appointment by the courts in October, Trident Pacific enlisted real estate firm JLL as its property manager to market vacant spaces to prospective tenants. The firm is also responsible for regularly reporting on the property’s financial position. 

Trident Pacific reported that in October, it collected around $740,000 in rent from existing tenants against more than $1.9 million in expenses for the property. The mall is currently more than 50% vacant with as many as five stores shuttering since the new year alone. 

According to the most recent data from commercial mortgage analytics firm Trepp, the mall’s appraised value dropped nearly $1 billion since 2016—from $1.22 billion to $290 million—as a result of the pending change in ownership and store closures. 

Retail experts say a revival of the mall is only possible once a change in ownership is completed. 

“The thing about that mall is, as great as it was, it’s been in the same format for four decades,” said Cameron Baird, a longtime retail broker at Avison Young. “The costs of operating it were so high that it probably priced a lot of the emerging tenants out.”  

Once a new owner purchases the mall at a steep discount, they won’t be under the same financial pressures that Westfield was under, Baird explained. So, similar to the office market, new players will be able to enter the market as soon as a reset gets underway.

Kevin V. Nguyen can be reached at