MILPITAS, Calif. (KTVU) - The popular Lego brand could soon have a presence in the Bay Area. Legoland just submitted a permit application to open a discovery center in the Great Mall in Milpitas. It’s a scaled down version of the Legoland theme park and would be the first in California.
Malls are re-inventing themselves to adapt to changing consumer trends. With more online shoppers, the old department store format isn't as viable. Legoland scouted several locations in the state but ultimately chose Milpitas. 12 other discovery centers are in the United States and Canada.
“I think it's pretty awesome Legoland would discover Milpitas as their first discovery center location in California,” said Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran. “I’m super excited.”
Sources say Legoland is eyeing the Sears Outlet at the mall transforming the 31,000-foot space for entertainment use to include kids rides, a 4D cinema, a play zone and a mini-land with various Lego creations. The potential site is near the food court and east parking garage.
“What we are seeing right now with modern retail and modern destination retail is experiential retail,” said SJSU Commercial Real Estate Professor Kelly Snider. "The Great Mall has been reinventing itself and taking what was a fairly old and huge infrastructure investment—the old [auto] assembly plant— and then it was reborn as the mall. Some of our huge department stores are finding that they’re not surviving. Successful economies are figuring out ways to reuse that infrastructure."
Snider said businesses are now selling an entire experience. As in the case with Legoland, families can participate in activities while also spending money on products.
“The bulk of where people are spending their money right now, people who have disposable income don't want to just accumulate products,” said Snider. “It’s experiencing the retail and giving consumers the reason to come back over and over again.”
The Great Mall is an economic engine for Milpitas when it comes to sales tax and restaurant taxes. The wholesome family-friendly attraction is a perfect match for a growing community with young families.
“We live right across the street so if they opened one up I think it's a place we'd definitely be interested in going to,” said Rafael Noble of Milpitas.
“The other Legoland is so far away in San Diego and we don't have the money to drive all the way over there so at least this is a facility we can come here in Milpitas,” said Cassandra Flores of San Jose.
If the application is approved, there are still hurdles with the city's planning and building safety departments. There is no exact timeline when it could open. The mayor is eager though to approve the application as soon as possible.