Wedged between the Glenn Highway and Mountain View Drive, a once-stagnant shopping center has quietly transformed into a vibrant commercial hub.
Growth at Glenn Square was slow from the start. The mall opened just before Tikahtnu Commons, which quickly attracted more businesses and more customers. For years, the Mountain View mall was full of vacant storefronts and empty parking spaces. Until recently.
With little fanfare, the shopping center turned a corner, contributing to a landslide of economic growth in a neighborhood that’s seen better days.
A year after Bass Pro Shops opened its first Alaska outpost at Glenn Square, the property is nearly full. Glenn Square continues to attract both new national names and local businesses – a popular frozen yogurt shop, an international footwear giant, an alehouse, a pizza chain. These days, the parking lot is usually busy and a stream of traffic flows in and out on to Mountain View Drive. But growth didn’t happen overnight.
Andrew Ingram, a retail specialist with Jack White Commercial, said the agency spent years looking for the right way forward.
The mall was developed nearly 10 years ago by P.O’B. Montgomery & Co., and the initial vision called for hundreds of thousands of feet of mixed use commercial and residential space, an art and cultural center, even a 16-screen Century Theatre multiplex.
The movie theater never came: Regal Cinemas brought a new multiplex to Tikahtnu Commons instead. The residential construction never happened, and many of the promised businesses never materialized. In 2011, a Mountain View church organized a neighborhood forum to tackle stalled development at the mall. Promises were made, but little changed. Old Navy – one of the mall’s major anchors – abandoned Glenn Square for a spot at the fast-growing shopping center up the highway. Replacing the clothing retailer was paramount.
“That was our focus; finding an anchor tenant,” Ingram said.
Then Bass Pro made plans to move into a new 80,000-square-foot space where Old Navy once stood, and things shifted gears. The “For Lease” signs began disappearing from store windows around the shopping center. Ingram credits a number of things, including the close proximity to one of the busiest intersections in the state of Alaska.
“It’s the fact that [the mall] has easy access off the Glenn Highway,” the realtor said. “Michael’s, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Petco do a very solid business, which helps as well.”
All those factors finally began to add up. Now, for the first time in its young life, Glenn Square may finally be living up to expectations; a destination for growing local brands and international companies alike.
Yogurt Lounge is one of the most recent businesses to open up shop in Mountain View, planning a grand opening at its Glenn Square location August 8. The shop first went into business four years ago, serving frozen yogurt and assorted toppings from a space in South Anchorage. When it came time to add a new location, according to general manager Sierra Hodgson, the business set its sights north in an attempt to find a new audience.
“[The owners] wanted to reach a different demographic,” Hodgson said.
Glenn Square turned out to be the right fit.
After the new Yogurt Lounge held a soft opening earlier this month, the manager said she was pleasantly surprised by the number of customers who came through the doors. The location is especially convenient for commuters coming and going from Eagle River and the Mat-Su Borough, she said, and customers seemed to find the new location without any advertising within days of opening.
“We had a lot more than I thought we would,” Hodgson said.
A few spaces down, the frozen yogurt shop will soon be joined by Baked Alaska Alehouse, owned by local entrepreneur Tara Petricca. Petricca also owns Piccolino’s, a Greek and Italian restaurant with locations in Eagle River and Wasilla.
After years of torpor, Glenn Square is becoming increasingly attractive to local restaurateurs looking to expand their offerings or launch their first business.
First came Eva’s Cupcakery, owned by U.S. Army Veteran Eva Perry, a born-and-bred Southerner with a passion for baking and an unshakeable faith in Glenn Square’s potential. The sweet shop was followed by Xalos Mexican Grill in 2013. Last year, the family behind the hugely successful Kriner’s Diner moved into Mountain View, opening Kriner’s Burgers & Pies. Now, besides Yogurt Lounge and Baked Alaska Alehouse, a Domino’s Pizza is setting up a kitchen in a strip mall right outside Glenn Square.
Restaurants aren’t the only things fueling the growth.
Skechers, one of the fastest-growing footwear companies in the United States, opened the doors to an approximately 5,000-square-foot store earlier this month. It’s the first Alaska location for a company that’s making big moves in the market. This past spring, Skechers overtook Adidas, New Balance and Asics to claim the number two brand share position in the U.S. athletic footwear market, according to Business Wire. Now, that brand is doing business in Mountain View.
Also new at Glenn Square is Epoch Men’s Health, a specialty health clinic with locations throughout the Lower 48. The Anchorage clinic is currently hiring and is set to open later this year, according to the company’s website.
That leaves just a few spaces left at the formerly troubled shopping center. Soon, there may be one less.
Another nationally known company is preparing to finalize a lease at Glenn Square, according to Jack White. Ingram says the business – not a restaurant — would occupy a 7,500-square-foot space in the mall. That announcement could come within the next several weeks.