Henry T. Segerstrom, the developer of Orange County, Calif.’s South Coast Plaza—the largest mall on the West Coast—has died at the age of 91.
Segerstrom, managing partner of Costa Mesa-based real estate development and management firm C. J. Segerstrom & Sons, built South Coast Plaza in 1967 on land his family had used for what was at one time the largest independent lima beans farm in the country. That gamble paid off: today, South Coast Plaza is the highest growing mall in the U.S. with $1.7 billion in annual sales.
The mall opened anchored by May Company and Sears. Segerstrom convinced Nordstrom to open their first store outside the Pacific Northwest in South Coast Plaza in 1978. Saks Fifth Avenue opened in 1979.
“Segerstrom hand-selected designer boutiques and exclusive tenants from France and Italy the way a jeweler might pick precious gems for a crown,” said the O.C. Register’s obituary. “Segerstrom was also very hands-on. He walked the mall at least twice a week, quizzing store managers about business. Gordon Segal, the founder of Crate & Barrel, once called Segerstrom ‘the ultimate merchant.’”
Segerstrom was also known as a philanthropist, giving millions to the local arts scene. His family donated land and money to open the Orange County Performing Arts Center in 1986, and then gave $51 million in 2006 to build the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall addition to the Arts Center. The Orange County Performing Arts Center changed its name to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in 2011.