The English Village: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow
Lake Havasu City was founded in 1963, but it was not until 1971 that this new desert community gained tremendous international publicity. That year, the London Bridge was rededicated after its massive-scale reconstruction process was completed. To welcome visitors and support the sale of residential lots, built on raw, vacant land in the California / Arizona desert, McCulloch Properties also built an open-air mall called the “English Village.” Located on a vacant three-acre site on the northeast corner of the London Bridge, the English Village was anchored by “Hog in Armor Pub” and “City of London Arms Restaurant.”
The English Village was not constructed as a permanent commercial center. The store fronts were more akin to what a Hollywood studio lot might look like, with ornate facades affixed to clapboard-type construction behind them. Nevertheless, the concept won the affections of visitors and residents alike. New construction expanded the English theme to the more permanent retail stores, as well as the London Bridge Resort on the southeast corner of the bridge in later years. However, the footprint for the English Village has always been north of the bridge
After most of the residential lots were sold, the English Village became unnecessary for McCulloch Properties. A brief renaissance followed its sale, as local investors tried to recreate its atmosphere of family entertainment. The original pub and restaurant were expanded into a microbrewery and then a playhouse, but they folded after the cost to sustain the magic was simply too great. With additional competition from Laughlin, Nev. and other desert entertainment venues, the number of visitors to the venue began to decline.
The English Village went through a series of different owners in the 1990s, each of whom tried unsuccessfully to revitalize the area. As a result, the facility fell into disrepair as the crowds all but vanished. An effort to have the City purchase and redevelop it was launched in 2006, but local taxpayers voted down the ballot initiative. By the time the Great Recession leveled the U.S. economy in 2007, the English Village had become an eyesore that was losing more money than it was taking in.
The mortgage holder, Virtual Realty Enterprises (VRE), foreclosed upon what remained of the facility in 2012. The retail occupancy rate had dropped to less than 35 percent. The loose collection of shops that remained to cater to visitors and local residents had abandoned the British theme.
Today, Recent History
Today, most of the original, temporary buildings have been torn down, leaving spectacular views of the London Bridge from the highway and surrounding businesses. The Lake Havasu City Convention & Visitors Bureau, still operating a small Visitor Center at the location, stepped forward with a proposal to manage the English Village and help the new landlord clean up the mess that had been left behind. As of 2017, the Visitor Center is now in City of London Arms Pub, and all the shops are occupied.
The owner, also VRE, has upgraded the English Village with new pavers, street lights and landscaping. In April 2017, VRE broke ground on building a Holiday Inn Express hotel. After construction is completed, VRE plans to build a Homewood Suites along the Bridgewater Channel in the English Village.