mall

This Mall is Turning into a Health Education Campus. But There’s a Catch…

Two developers have purchased the Fiesta Mall in Mesa Arizona. And they plan to transition the former retail shopping center into what they call a health education campus. But how much health education will it actually provide to the people who need it most?

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Jerry Tokoph and Wayne Howard of Dimension Financial & Realty Investments Inc. bought the mall for a whopping $6.72 million– and they paid cash! Apparently the developers have faith in the future of Mesa’s health because they plan to ultimately invest $30 million into the project. Wow!

So what do they plan to do with the 380,000 property exactly? What is a “health education campus” anyways? Well the good news is certain portions of the space will be devoted to community college education including medical learning centers.

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From Mall to Health Center

But unfortunately, a lot of the property will also include for-profit colleges. And for-profit colleges don’t exactly have the best reputation. Degrees from these types of schools are often useless once a student tries to apply for jobs with the so-called accreditation. Plus they’re usually expensive– very expensive– with predatory loan programs that put students in debt to the institution for decades. Sometimes even facing wage garnishment despite not being able to find jobs in their fields. Due of course to the useless degrees.

The sale does not include some major retailers like Sears or Dillard’s. So the new developers won’t quite be able to revitalize the entire piece of property. But in the portion they can revamp, developers plan to include sections devoted to housing and entertainment venues as well.

On closer look, this isn’t exactly a ‘health education campus’ as the name implies. But rather a way for developers to capitalize on the local population’s new interest in health by transforming an outdated old-school style mall of the 80’s into a faux-downtown area with a ‘healthy’ twist and urban feel. These developers are simply updating the mall to fit with the changing times.

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How to Make it Work

Mesa isn’t the poorest city in Maricopa country, but almost 20% of residents do live below the poverty line. Most of the jobs in Mesa come from public sector or government jobs like the local school. The top 3 private sector employers are the local hospital, Boeing, and Walmart respectively. This means that Mesa probably has large gaps between the wealthy and poor. And the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area ranks number 3 in poverty out of the country’s 25 largest metro areas.

So what would make this project better? Health clinics focusing on childhood obesity or providing vital services for low income local residents. Education centers where low income residents can learn to produce their own food, test their water quality, learn about alternative health, or build healthy shopping guides. Income based boot-camps to teach proper fitness.

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The new center is expected to be completed next year and the developers are still acquiring tenants to fill the spaces. So maybe it will very well include answers to the criticisms mentioned here. But it’s hard to imagine that with a $30 million dollar budget these developers aren’t expecting a massive return on profits. So at this point it looks like the center will only serve those who are already interested in health with a disposable income to spend on chic services.


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