Suburban retailers may be teetering on bankruptcy amid the worst shopping slump in decades, but dead-mall deals are doing just fine, thank you.
At least Chesterfield County's most infamous dead shopping center, Cloverleaf Mall, is on track to be redeveloped starting next year, says Tom Jacobson, director of community revitalization for the county.
“It's a challenge,” he says. The most critical piece of the deal is nearly finished, he says — a planned community development authority that will issue public bonds to finance about $11.3 million in new roads and other public amenities.
The sour economy has forced a bit of a delay. The county hoped to finalize the deal and work with the developer to issue the bonds by late summer. It now looks more like the public bonds will be floated in the first quarter of 2009, Jacobson says. Whether municipal bond investors are biting again by spring is another matter.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Crosland, the project's developer, is still on board to turn the former mall into a mixed-use development with retail shops, housing and commercial offices. In November, the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors approved the conceptual plan for the mall's redevelopment.
As for the retail component, Kroger is building its biggest area grocery store on the site. A year ago, Kroger confirmed plans to build its first 120,000-square-foot Marketplace grocery store in the old mall's footprint. In addition to groceries, the larger stores typically contain bank branches, jewelry stores and such wide-ranging offerings as furniture, appliances and electronics.
“Kroger is still involved,” Jacobson says. “The good news is grocery and neighborhood services are healthier than some of the other retail users.”
Meanwhile, the local church that nearly purchased the mall in 2004 remains optimistic that there's a place for it in the redevelopment plan. Despite being repeatedly rebuffed by the county, the Rev. Steve Parson, senior pastor of the Richmond Christian Center, says his congregation remains committed to coughing up several million dollars for a piece of the 84-acre site. Parson would like to build a new megachurch on the property.
“They've gone too far to turn around,” Parson says of Chesterfield's nearly $17 million investment in the old mall. “I'm still here in the wings. So, we'll see what happens.”