[caption id="attachment_32946" align="alignleft" width="313" caption="Renovated northeast entrance"][/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- A long-awaited makeover of Sonoma County's largest shopping mall, Coddingtown, is set to start in earnest this spring with multimillion-dollar upgrades to common areas inside and outside the 841,000-square-foot property.

The project will include redesigned north and east mall entrances -- facing Guerneville Road and Cleveland Avenue, respectively -- with more outdoor seating, a new children's play area, new restrooms plus on just for families, expanded seating areas featuring couches instead of benches, softer overhead lighting, new flooring that will include hardwood as well as tile and a refreshing of the landmark Coddingtown sign.

General contractor Codding Construction plans to have work start at the site in mid-May and be complete by November, when intense year-end shopping activity begins. The Rohnert Park-based contractor is prequalifying specialty contractors now, according to President Rick Freeman.

[caption id="attachment_32945" align="alignright" width="313" caption="Renovated north entrance"][/caption]

"We'd like people to come into the shopping center and say, 'Wow!'" said Kelly Hatsell, Simon Property Group regional vice president for the West Coast, at the "glass-breaking" ceremony at the mall this morning.

She said that when publicly traded Simon started reassessing planned projects in its 393-property portfolio, the Coddingtown project was among five nationwide set as a priority.

Before the event, Ms. Hatsell said that Simon leasing agents planning to attend the annual International Council of Shopping Centers convention in May, an event that garners a number of deals, already have "quite a few" appointments lined up with potential Coddingtown shop space and anchor tenants.

"A lot of them are new to the market," said Lois Codding, head of leasing for Codding Enterprises.

"Whole Foods started a positive momentum," Ms. Hatsell said. "It's a very exciting time for Coddingtown Mall."

[caption id="attachment_32944" align="alignleft" width="274" caption="Part of planned renovations to Coddingtown to make it more family-friendly will be a play area for children with surrounding seating."][/caption]

There have been a number of "structured vacancies" and relocations of tenants in the mall in anticipation of the start of this project, Ms. Codding said.

Macerich Co. also ended some leases and moved tenants around before its large renovation of Northgate Mall in San Rafael in 2009 and 2010.

Updating the 49-year-old mall the late Codding Enterprises founder Hugh Codding built in 1962 has been anticipated since the company sold a managing stake in the mall to Simon in 2005 for $37 million.

"My personal motive for this mall is to make my grandfather proud," said Codding Enterprises Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Lisa Codding before the event, tearfully.

For the "glass-breaking," Santa Rosa Mayor Ernesto Oliveras used a small hammer to shatter a plate of frosted glass barely concealing an artist rendering of the planned look for one of the new entrances. Before doing so, he said the project will create jobs and expand the local economy, something he's seen recently on attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies for new businesses in the city.

"It seems like we're starting to move out of this hole that we're in," he said.

The city of Santa Rosa recently committed a $2.2 million loan from redevelopment funds to Coddingtown.