An OASIS at Grossmont Mall

Posted: January 27th, 2017 | Features, News, Top Stories | 1 Comment

By Sara Appel-Lennon

Adult learning center moves from Mission Valley to La Mesa

For 35 years, San Diego OASIS operated on Macy’s third floor in the Westfield shopping mall in Mission Valley at 1702 Camino Del Rio North.

However, because the Mission Valley Macy’s is being shuttered as part of a 68-store downsizing, OASIS Learning Center is relocating to a new home in La Mesa’s Grossmont Shopping Center at 5500 Grossmont Center.

The new location will consist of two centers — a Wellness Center and a Lifelong Learning Center.

The Wellness Center, which opened on Jan. 9, is located opposite of Restoration Hardware Outlet (formerly Sports Authority) at 5500 Grossmont Center Drive, Suite 228 in La Mesa. The Wellness Center hosts exercise, dance and mind-body classes there.

San Diego Oasis President and CEO Simona Valanciute at the new OASIS Wellness Center in Grossmont Mall (Photo by Brandon Harding)

The Lifelong Learning Center will be in the retail space formerly occupied by Anna’s Linens, across from Barnes and Noble.

This is the first time OASIS will have a space specifically for exercise, dance, yoga, tai chi, and meditation. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors and ballet bars were also installed for a new class that will be offered called Beginning Ballet for Seniors.

The Wellness Center will also double as an art studio and be “a place to be messy,” said Simona Valanciute, San Diego OASIS President and CEO. “Our artists are beyond excited.”

Educational classes at the Lifelong Learning Center will still be held in Mission Valley until sometime in the spring when OASIS bids their final adieu to the Macy’s location that has served as its home since 1982.

A grand-opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony will take place to celebrate the new location in the springtime as well.

“We’re really thrilled for the first time to put our name on the door,” Valanciute said of the move to the Grossmont locations. “The biggest benefit is visibility. Everybody who walks by can see us since they will be on street level instead of upstairs.”

Other benefits include expanded hours, plenty of free parking places with 24-hour surveillance, and accessibility by bus and trolley from Interstate 8 and state Route 125.

“We’re ecstatic we’re preserving public transportation access to our program.” Valanciute said “Next, we’ll focus on finding a location in North County, then South County.”

What’s next for Macy’s

While the future of San Diego OASIS is secured with the move to La Mesa and even looking to expand locations, the future of the old location is less certain.

After Macy’s announced its downsizing last year, some of the store locations went up for sale. Westfield Corporation bought the 363,000-square-foot Macy’s and 5,500-square foot Broken Yolk buildings for 16.5 million dollars in March and, so far, has not announced what it wants to do with the building. Attempts for comment from Westfield went unanswered.

The Mission Valley Macy’s was built in 1960 by the same architect who built the Mormon temple in La Jolla, Torrey Pines High School, and the San Diego Convention Center. The building is considered a contemporary for its time and has been designated a historic landmark which means it cannot be demolished.

In March, the Union Tribune reported that Westfield had filed a petition to change the building’s historic monument status so it can tear it down.

The Macy’s Company has had a long-standing philanthropic relationship with OASIS. In 1982, Marylen Mann – a colleague of Macy’s founder David May – retired and was appalled to find that bingo was the only group activity available to older adults. She convinced May’s grandson, Morton May, to offer space in his May Company stores, rent-free nationally, to create OASIS Learning Centers for adults age 50-plus to keep them active and healthy.

For 25 years, Macy’s offered 27 OASIS Centers rent-free space and financing for expenses. OASIS San Diego was offered rent-free space for 35 years.

Macy’s Mission Valley was the largest Oasis Center in the country and drew 5,000 participants weekly. OASIS San Diego as a whole draws more than 42,000 people to all its sites regionally.

According to SANDAG, the 55-plus population is expected to double within the next 20 years in San Diego County. San Diego OASIS will be ready to continue its mission to provide meaningful activities for the growing population.

“OASIS is a family, a community,” Valanciute said. “We’re not just a place for a class. We exist to solve social isolation.”

—Sara Appel-Lennon is a freelance writer and former professional clown. Visit her at

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