Nearly 35 years after it opened to the delight of South Sound shoppers, the Tacoma Mall is in the midst of a stunning renovation designed to improve the shopping experience for the throngs of shoppers who fill the mall annually.

The multi-million-dollar project marks the first major improvement to the 150-store mall since it was expanded in 1977, then again in 1982.

“Tacoma Mall is a family mall,” says its marketing director, Lynn Castle. “We’re trying to make it even more family oriented.”

Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, owner of the 1.3 million-square-foot Mall, is doing that with a variety of changes. Long bench seating that once lined interior concourses has been removed in favor of individual chairs, small portable benches and benches that wrap around interior pillars. Subtle pastel ceiling colors and interior trellises are illuminated by a new lighting scheme.

New skylights are being installed to let in more sunlight and ceramic and slate floor tile are replacing the original terrazzo tiling.

“That tile probably would have lasted another 50 years,” Castle says of the terrazzo, “but it was dated and we wanted to bring in something new and refreshing.”

Much of the interior work is designed to encourage leisurely trips through the Mall and mute the impression of the structure’s length, no small chore since it stretches a third of a mile from one end to the other.

Crews are completing most of the improvements between the Mall’s 10 p.m. closing and 8 a.m. the following day to avoid interfering with shoppers.

Also in the plans is a new porte-cochere at the south entrance. The term refers to a covered entrance area where shoppers can be dropped off or picked up without being exposed to the weather.

One of the more lavish improve-ments, under construction on the Mall’s south side is a quaint food court that will seat 500 people. The court will feature up to nine restaurants in a half-circle, and seating will be under a round central skylight. Neon track lighting will point the way to the food court from inside the Mall.

By Richard Sypher, Business Examiner staff