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New life



At an April 24 ceremony, the mall was officially renamed Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads. Developer Jose Legaspi said it is a reference to the main square in Mexico City.

Twenty new tenants already have signed contracts, and developers are in talks with others. The new businesses include clothing, jewelry and shoe stores, two restaurants and a couple salons. Many will be locally owned, and they will join a handful of shops and clubs already renting space.

Future plans call for a grocery store and an entertainment venue that could include a club and a rodeo arena. The space formerly occupied by Dillard’s will become an “incubator space” for booths of new small businesses.

“We’re opening our hearts and minds for anyone who wants to start their American dream,” Legaspi said.

All entrances to the mall will be renovated, and the central court will be updated to include a small stage.

Legaspi said more seating and skylights will be added throughout the 40-year-old building.

Raptor Properties, a local real estate holding company, purchased Crossroads Mall at steep discount in September 2011. Robert Ruiz, marketing and programming director for the Plaza Mayor, said the new developers didn’t have anything specific in mind for the property until one of them visited La Gran Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas, a once-empty mall that had been transformed with Latino businesses.

“They saw the life that was going on there. It was a mall that was full on weekdays,” Ruiz said.

It was one of several malls around the country developed by Legaspi, who is licensed in California. Raptor Properties asked him if he would become a partner on the Crossroads project, and after doing his own due diligence, he accepted.

Things to come
Rejuvenating a mall that’s been largely vacant for years will take more than attracting a handful of small businesses. Legaspi said he wants to make it an attraction with holiday events almost every month and musical entertainment in the halls every weekend.

Credit: Mark Hancock

Late one afternoon after the unveiling ceremony, those halls were almost desolate. A security guard walked past a row of shuttered storefronts as a young couple turned around at an empty department store and paced back to their starting point.

Outside, in a sign of things to come, workers were anchoring a tent that would host a Spanish-language circus on its first-time stop in Oklahoma.

By keeping a packed schedule of family-friendly events, Legaspi hopes to draw customers in from the entire Central Oklahoma region. As traffic increases and more small shops open, bigger national chains might give the mall a second look.

“We’re only responding to the community. We’re not responding to anybody else,” he said.

Francisco Ramirez credits the cultural component of La Gran Plaza with the success of his restaurant chain. He opened his first restaurant inside La Gran in 2004. Since then, he opened four more there and two in Mexico. He will open a restaurant and a separate snack bar inside Plaza Mayor soon.

“With the entertainment happening every weekend, that really brought a lot of different people in from different places,” Ramirez said.

He said he sees even more potential in Oklahoma City because the mall is literally at a major crossroads, and the Latino community here continues to grow rapidly.

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