NEWARK -- Longtime resident Dean Golden stood up to address the large crowd that met Wednesday to find ways to reinvigorate aging NewPark Mall and called for the city to be creative and think big.
"Let's not duplicate what everyone else is doing," he said. "Let's create a destination, something with unique features that people will drive 20 miles for."
Golden's vision -- teeming with a swagger this small city of 42,573 is not known for -- was met with robust applause.
Other residents also were thinking big at the public meeting, calling for a performing arts center and European-style plazas to be added to the area.
NewPark Mall is owned by Rouse Properties, a Manhattan-based real estate trust that owns more than 30 malls nationwide. Just about everyone agrees that the shopping center, built in 1980 and renovated in 1993, is outdated and badly needs change.
"Do we tear the mall down or do we renovate it? Or both?" asked Terrence Grindall, Newark's community development director. "That's the key issue."
Officials from City Design Collective, Oakland-based consultants hired for $80,000 by the city, led about 75 people in the spirited public meeting that tried to answer those questions.
The consultants tasked with crafting the Greater NewPark Mall Master Plan, a document that will lay out the city's vision for the next 20 years for the 125-acre area that includes the shopping center and several land parcels that surround it. The zone around the mall includes a total of 18 property owners and is bounded by Cedar Boulevard, Balentine Drive and Interstate 880.
At the public meeting, City Design Collective listed a number of ways that malls recently have reinvented themselves, including a simple renovation or completely razing the shopping center and building a downtown area with high-density housing. Some cities have sought a compromise, keeping part of the mall while adding office space, housing, youth centers and other mixed uses.
Ian Ross, of City Design Collective, said NewPark has grown outdated simply because the mall concept itself has grown stale.
"No new malls have been constructed anywhere in the United States since 2006," Ross said.
Also, newer Bay Area shopping centers around the Bay Area -- including Stoneridge in Pleasanton, Pacific Commons in Fremont and Santana Row in San Jose -- have passed NewPark by.
"Retail by nature is predatory," Ross added.
City Design Collective is expected to deliver a rough draft of the plan by October or November. In the meantime, city officials say they will continue to work with residents and property owners to come up with a plan for an economically feasible project, Grindall said.
"It's a unique opportunity to have that much acreage next to a major freeway," he said. "When you think of it as an opportunity project, it could be one of the best in California."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.