Crews demolish the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove site. 

The demolition of Elk Grove’s so-called “Ghost Mall” kicked off on Feb. 1. Work crews started dismantling the partially-built buildings at Highway 99 and Kammerer Road.

Once highly anticipated by many people in and near Elk Grove, the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove mall is now a past memory.

Eleven years after construction was halted on the mall, its developer, The Howard Hughes Corp. officially abandoned the project and announced its demolition plans last month.

During the afternoon of Feb. 1, demolition activity began on the Howard Hughes-owned property.

A portion of the unfinished mall structures lies adjacent to the Hughes’ property, and is intended for the Wilton Rancheria’s proposed $500 million casino-resort.

The Wilton Rancheria held a celebration that morning that drew about 200 people, including tribal members as well as city and regional leaders. They announced that the demolition would begin that day on their land.

Tribal Chair Raymond “Chuckie” Hitchcock made the crowd laugh after explaining that he is a fan of Pink Floyd, the legendary British rock band known for its song, “The Trial,” which includes the chant, “Tear down the wall.”

Moments before a hydraulic excavator maneuvered by Sterling Holloway began dismantling one of the mall structures, Hitchcock chanted, “Tear down the mall.”

Hitchcock had a serious tone while telling the Citizen what having the structures demolished means to the tribe.

“This is the removal of a visual obstacle that’s in the tribe’s way to self-sufficiency, but the beginning of the removing the blight of 2008,” he said.

Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly praised the tribe for their ability to move forward with their project, as opposed to the neighboring developer’s failure to complete the mall.

“For 11 years, they haven’t done anything – the company before, the company now,” he said. “The bottom line here is (the mall) is not being built.

“That’s why it’s so important to really encourage (the tribe). I think that’s really a breath of fresh air, as opposed to seeing this as a Ghost Mall.”

Ly added that he hopes that the Howard Hughes-owned property will be developed with attractions that would complement a casino-resort.

“The hope is that there would be a synergy between the resort and south of the resort,” he said. “My hope is restaurants, hotels, something that would reinforce the entertainment venue.”

Hitchcock emphasized that the casino-resort would assist current and future tribal members.

“(It would) provide medical services to our members, give opportunities for housing, educational scholarships, cultural awareness and elders programs,” he said. “There’s so much that we can do, and also be a contributing part of the community.”

Dr. Elena Tarango, the tribe’s executive director of health, shared her own visions for the casino-resort.

“I see clinic and I eventually see an all-Indian hospital,” she said. “So, those are things that I look for, because I know this project will bring the needed revenue, which I know is important. It will certainly lend to the programs that we, as tribal members, are in desperate need of.”

Jody Martinez said that she is among the tribal members who would be assisted through the casino-resort.

“It will help me financially and health-wise,” she said. “This is a big deal and a big opportunity for people. I’m happy and I’m looking forward to it. We’ve been waiting a long time.”

The tribe’s vice chairman, Jesus Tarango, referred to the demolition project as a symbolic event.

“I think it’s very powerful to witness the dropping of a building for what’s to come,” he said. “It’s very significant. It’s definitely symbolic in the new beginnings to come.”

Tribal member Lisa Wallom stated that she is excited about how the casino-resort could assist Elk Grove.

“It’s going to do so much for this community, and it’s going to have a lot for them to do,” she said. “So, that’s what I’m excited about is what we can do for the community.”

Hitchcock mentioned that the tribe’s demolition project will be completed in three to four weeks, and that materials from the site will be recycled.

“They will be very meticulous on how they cut it and tear it down, but by the end of February, it should be removed,” he said.

Hitchcock added that the tribe is focused on opening their casino resort in late 2020 or early 2021.