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Desert Fashion Plaza
Desert Fashion Plaza Demolition-1.jpg
Aerial view of the mall during demolition in 2013.
LocationPalm Springs, California
Address123 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Opening dateOctober 16, 1967
Closing date1992,[1] demolished 2013-2014
DeveloperHome Savings and Loan Association
Joseph K. Eichenbaum[2]
ManagementGrit Development[3]
OwnerGrit Development
ArchitectCharles Luckman.[4]
No. of stores and services0 (space for 100+)
No. of anchor tenants0 (space for 2)
No. of floors1 (2 in Saks Fifth Avenue; 3 in I. Magnin)

Desert Fashion Plaza, formerly known as Desert Inn Fashion Plaza, was an enclosed shopping mall located in Palm Springs, California. The mall was originally developed by Home Savings and Loan Association, which sold the shopping center to Desert Plaza Partnership.[5] In the early 1980s, Desert Plaza Partnership sold the property to DeBartolo Corporation which expanded and revamped the mall to accommodate more shops. Subsequently, sales declined prompting major retailers to close down business at the Desert Fashion Plaza. In 2002, John Wessman of Wessman Development bought the property and proposed a significant redevelopment on the whole site. Demolition began to take place in 2013, and shops, restaurants, and a six-story hotel have opened on part of the site with more planned.

Former anchor tenants in the mall were Saks Fifth Avenue, I. Magnin, and Bank of America.[6]

The mall was used as the set for the fictional S'wallow Valley Mall in the 2012 comedy film, Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie.[7]


The site of the Desert Fashion Plaza was formerly a resort hotel named the Desert Inn opened and operated by Nellie Coffman, an early settler of Palm Springs.[8] After Nellie's death in the 1950s, sons George Roberson and Earl Coffman, who had continuously assisted Nellie in the operation of the Inn, sold it in 1955 to actress Marion Davies.[9]

By April 1956, there were plans for a $4.5 million, five story hotel and shopping center on the site.[10] The project would have originally included a swimming pool, a Las Vegas-style restaurant, and a theater for both Broadway plays and cinema films during the winter and summer seasons, respectively. The hotel itself would accommodate 200 rooms and suites, along with a parking space for 1,000 cars. Victor Gruen and Associates were to be the architects to design the project, with Joseph Bliti of New York being contracted for the proposed construction.[10] The proposed center was scheduled for completion by November 1957. However, the plans never came to fruition due to Davies's health deteriorating at the time.

Davies eventually sold the land for $2.5 million to developers Samuel Firks and George Alexander in 1960.[9] Alexander and Firks originally envisioned an eight-story hotel that would accommodate 300 rooms and a 1,600 parking space facility for a proposed $4 million.[11] Plans for redeveloping the Desert Inn fell, which prompted the Alexander Construction Company to focus more of using the property for commercial use instead.[12]

On November 14, 1965, Alexander and his spouse Mildred, along with their son Robert and his wife Helene, were all killed when their plane impacted shortly after taking off from Palm Springs International Airport. The plane was expected to reach Hollywood-Lockheed Air Terminal, but the plane lost control while in flight and collided into the Chocolate Mountains region near Indio, California.[13] All plans for redeveloping the old site were dropped.


After Alexander's death, Home Savings and Loan Association obtained the Desert Inn property in 1966. That same year, developer Joseph K. Eichenbaum released a statement on plans of constructing a multi-million dollar commercial center on the old site.[14] Architect Charles Luckman was commissioned to design the new shopping mall.[4] Demolition of the Desert Inn began in August 1966.[15]

The Desert Inn Fashion Plaza was officially opened to the public on October 16, 1967, with the grand opening of a 20,000 square-foot I. Magnin,[16] which represented the retailer's return to Palm Springs after its 1933–1942 presence with a resort shop at the El Mirador Hotel.[17][18] A month before the mall opened, Luckman and Leonard R. Lockhart, first vice president of Home Savings and Loan Associates, were both honored by Southern California Edison for the all-electrical design.[19]

In 1969, Joseph Magnin Co. broke ground on a 26,000 square foot department store in the mall.[20] The new store would anchor at the corner of North Palm Canyon Drive and Andreas Road, and was set to open in September the same year. San Francisco-based architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, would design the store, along with contractors Diversified Builders, Inc.

In addition, 12 other major establishments also opened up in the new mall, including: Bank of America, Belmont Savings & Loan, P'iddlers Three Restaurant, Stuard's Sahara, Silverwoods, Islamania, Michael's, Robert Sands Hairstyling, Master's Candies, Village Card & Gift Shop and Orange Julius.[21]

In 1978, Home Savings and Loan Associates sold the Desert Inn Fashion Plaza to Desert Plaza Partnership.[5] The group compromised Arthur Gilbert, David Blum and Gerson Fox; three partners that were based in Los Angeles.


During the 1980s, major shopping destinations such as Palm Desert Town Center and the El Paseo Shopping District were growing rapidly in Palm Desert, California. National chains also opened up businesses throughout the Palm Desert area. Because of this, most local shops that were in the central hub of Palm Springs began to shift away into other areas that were also seeing growth. This situation prompted Desert Plaza Partnership to focus on plans of expanding the mall.

In 1983, Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. announced an agreement with Desert Plaza Partnership to renovate the Desert Inn Fashion Plaza for $42 million.[22] The Ohio-based corporation planned to enlarge the mall to accommodate more tenants, a six-story hotel, and underground parking. Meanwhile, the local redevelopment agency was authorized to help developers acquire the additional property needed for the potential project.[4]

In 1984, redevelopment took place by first razing historic-period buildings on the site, and setting up the new section on top. At the same time, Joseph Magnin announced that they would close their remaining 24 stores, including the one in Palm Springs due to bankruptcy.

The mall was officially opened on November 16, 1985, under the new name of Desert Fashion Plaza.[23] I. Magnin and Saks Fifth Avenue would serve as the main anchors of the newly redeveloped mall, as well as a hotel called Maxim's Paris Suite Hotel.


Despite the new stores that were opened, mall traffic did not increase considerably. In the years to come, retail sales declined and by 1991, Silverwoods men's clothing and Marie Callender's moved out of the still partially vacant Desert Fashion Plaza.[24] Hyatt Regency Suites bought the hotel management and renamed it as Hyatt Palm Springs.

In 1992, R.H. Macy & Co. closed the Palm Springs location of I. Magnin after several years in operation citing that their store was not a “suitable location" at the Desert Fashion Plaza.[25]

In 1995, developer Mark Bragg, a former adviser to Ronald Reagan, and the ever-present Eddie DeBartolo Jr. teamed up to pass a measure which approved card clubs at three sites: two controlled by Bragg, and the third at DeBartolo's Desert Fashion Plaza mall.[26] Palm Springs voted a ballot by a 2-to-1 margin for the gambling establishment.

At a cost of $13.5 million, Phoenix-based Arizona Partners became the new owners of Desert Fashion Plaza.[27] Arizona Partners planned on expanding the Desert Fashion Plaza to over 350,000 square feet and removing the roof to make the mall open-air. The main entrance was to be an open air plaza with outdoor dining, shops, and gather places, plus a 3,000-seat cinema and a 2,400 seat live theater; the project would have been renamed The Promenade. The first phase of the project would begin in mid-1998 and be completed sometime at the end of the year.

By the beginning of 1999, about 75% of the tenants inside the mall were closed down. At the same time, San Diego-based Excel Legacy Corporation scrapped Arizona Partners's concepts and proposed its own project. Developer MBK Southern California Ltd. would design the center. Their decision was to bulldoze the whole mall and replace it with an open air plaza. Proposed tenants included Saks, a two-story multiplex theater, a food court, gourmet market, restaurants and various specialty shops.[28] However, the concept was never realized, and the owners decided to sell the mall for an asking price of $25 million.

In 2000, the Agua Caliente Development Authority, a subsidiary of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, considered the purchase and redevelopment of Desert Fashion Plaza, and were in discussions with Palm Springs city officials and the director of the Palm Springs Desert Museum.[29] Agua Caliente ultimately made the decision to not to buy the property.

Developer John Wessman purchased the Desert Fashion Plaza and initially planned a Spanish-Mediterranean plaza on the site. Simultaneously, Saks Fifth Avenue closed down their location and moved to a new store in the El Paseo shopping district down in Palm Desert. At the same time, the attacks on September 11, 2001 caused the project to slow down.

Demolition and Redevelopment

In 2011, it was announced that workers were to begin the process of removing the large tent behind the mall, which removed in several phrases with the first stage.[30]

After more than a decade since the mall sat empty, redevelopment finally moved forward on February 7, 2013, with the demolition of the mall. The large, vacant property would be turned into an outdoor shopping center with new shops, restaurants, and a six-story hotel. Wessman pledged that demolition of the plaza would take just four months, and that 90% of the materials would be recycled.[31][32]

Before construction commenced in the middle of the same year, a lawsuit was filed by Frank Tysen, a member of the Citizens for a Sustainable Palm Springs, and owner of Casa Cody Bed & Breakfast. Tysen and his group were suing because it believes the city did not follow the proper protocol when it came to a petition that was submitted.[33] The petition asked the city to place a portion of the concept on a ticket. However, the city of Palm Springs opted out of the deal saying that the redevelopment action was considered as administrative, and not legislative action. In April 2014, the court denied the halt of the project.

The mall was demolished in 2014. A Kimpton Hotel (Rowan) opened in 2017 on the southeast portion of the site.[34] Other shops on or near the former mall property include H&M and Free People, as well as several smaller shops and restaurants.[35]


  1. ^ Not stated (22 July 2014). "Successor to the Palm Springs Community Redevelopment Agency" (PDF). Riverside County. p. 147.
  2. ^ "A personal tribute to the Desert Fashion Plaza". The Desert Sun. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  3. ^ "Downtown PS". Grit Development. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Palmer, Roger C. (2012). Palm Springs: Then and Now. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 40–68. ISBN 978-0-73-858913-8.
  5. ^ a b Staff writer(s) (7 July 1978). "Desert Inn Plaza Sold". The Desert Sun. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  6. ^ "Downtown Revitalization FAQ". City of Palm Springs. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  7. ^ Palm Springs Visitors Center. "Coachella Valley Feature Film Production 1920–2011". Filming in Palm Springs. Palm Springs, CA. Archived from the original on October 1, 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2019.Download[permanent dead link] (Downloadable PDF file)
  8. ^ Conrad, Tracy (8 June 2019). "Twist of fate doomed the heart of the Palm Springs village". Desert Sun. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Explore Palm Springs: The Desert Inn". Palm Springs Life. Desert Publications Inc. 4 June 2019.
  10. ^ a b Staff writer(s) (27 April 1956). "$4,500,000 Five-Story Hotel and Shopping Center Project Planned for Desert Inn Site Next Year". The Desert Sun. Vol. 29, no. 157. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  11. ^ Staff writer(s) (27 April 1960). "New Desert Inn Plans Revealed". The Desert Sun. Vol. 33, no. 217. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  12. ^ Staff writer(s) (16 August 1962). "Alexander Says Inn Plans Dead". The Desert Sun. Vol. 36, no. 10. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  13. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  14. ^ Watson, Tom (5 January 1966). "Desert Inn Building Start Seen in '66". The Desert Sun. Vol. 39, no. 131. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  15. ^ Staff writer(s) (23 August 1966). "Farewell, Desert Inn!". The Desert Sun. Vol. 40, no. 16. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  16. ^ Staff writer(s) (16 October 1967). "'New Era' Launched as I. Magnin Opens". The Desert Sun. Vol. 41, no. 62. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  17. ^ "I. Magnin & Co. to Open Twelfth Branch". San Francisco Examiner. November 8, 1933. p. 25.
  18. ^ Brown, Renee (September 25, 2015). "History: Torney general hospital's contribution in WWII". The Desert Sun. Palm Springs: Gannett.
  19. ^ Staff writer(s) (29 September 1967). "Desert Inn Designers Honored". The Desert Sun. Vol. 41, no. 48. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  20. ^ Staff writer(s) (6 March 1969). "Ground Broken Today for New Major Store". The Desert Sun. Vol. 42, no. 183. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  21. ^ "Unknown". Los Angeles Times. 23 March 1969. p. 157. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  22. ^ "Desert Fashion Plaza timeline". WordPress. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  23. ^ Staff writer(s) (16 November 1985). "November 16. Celebrate our new beginning". No. 90. The Desert Sun. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  24. ^ "Explore Palm Springs: Desert Fashion Plaza". Palm Springs Life. Desert Publications Inc. 8 June 2018. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  25. ^ Haberman, Douglas (30 November 1996). "Desert Fashion Plaza sold". The Desert Sun. p. 1A.
  26. ^ "The Gambling Connection". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  27. ^ "Arizona Partners new owners of Desert Fashion Plaza". Cengage Learning. Archived from the original on 2018-06-17. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  28. ^ "Approve a Project Financing Agreement Between the City of Palm Springs and Palm Springs Promenade, LLC, for the Redevelopment of Certain Real Property at 123 North Palm Canyon Drive". City of Palm Springs. 20 July 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2017.[permanent dead link]
  29. ^ Spillman, Benjamin (19 December 2000). "Agua Caliente subsidiary eyes Desert Fashion Plaza". p. 1A.
  30. ^ "First Phase of Desert Fashion Plaza Redevelopment Begins". 8 March 2011.
  31. ^ "An End and a Beginning: Destruction of the Desert Fashion Plaza Formally Begins". Coachella Valley Independent. Coachella Valley Independent LLC. 8 February 2018.
  32. ^ "Desert Fashion Plaza Overhaul Bringing Three New Blocks of Retail, Hotel, and More to Palm Springs". 4 January 2013.
  33. ^ "Desert Fashion Plaza heads to court". KESQ-TV. Gulf-California Broadcast Company. 7 February 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  34. ^[bare URL PDF]
  35. ^ "New hotels help Palm Springs regain its title as the capital of cool". Los Angeles Times. 22 October 2017.