RICHMOND — For the next few weeks, it's anchors away in Richmond Mall.
Stores that have supported the 300,000-square-foot shopping center are about to migrate across town to the soon-to-open Richmond Centre complex, raising concerns that the mall would become like Fayette County's vacant Lexington Mall or near-empty Turfland Mall.
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The attraction of the development's location off Interstate 75 at Barnes Mill Road and the promise of more space for tenants have already lured away three of Richmond Mall's anchor stores — Goody's Family Clothing, JCPenney and Hastings Entertainment, a retailer of DVDs and other entertainment products.
Two other tenants will also leave the mall in the coming months. Dawahare's, which was set to move to Richmond Centre, and the Fashion Bug are going out of business.
The departures leave the mall with a thin lineup of large businesses strong enough to anchor it and stand up to the demand expected for Richmond Centre.
To stay afloat, the mall needs to attract big-name retailers as anchors, one area business professor said.
”If they can't attract the anchor stores, I don't know how they're going to get the other stores that are going to rely on them as a destination point,“ said Bob Dahlstrom, the Bloomfield endowed professor of marketing at the University of Kentucky's Gatton College of Business and Economics.
But mall officials remain confident that it will retain shoppers with its remaining and future tenants.
”We will have a down period, but we're going to do our very best to keep that minimal,“ said Vickey Strunk, manager of Richmond Mall. ”You can't build Richmond Centre overnight. We can't rebuild Richmond Mall overnight.“
Strunk said there is some ongoing ”leasing activities“ with businesses interested in a Richmond Mall location, but declined to identify those stores. She said there will be an announcement about the new tenants in the next couple of weeks.
”Hopefully, it will be something that the community will be very excited about,“ Strunk said.
Unlike the mall, Richmond Centre is designed like Lexington's Hamburg Pavilion, an open-air shopping complex.
Some of Richmond Centre's tenants will include Meijer; Belk, a department store; Cinemark Theatre and Home Depot. Culver's and Logan's Roadhouse will also be on the property. They will begin opening in October.
Richmond Centre executives will search for a replacement tenant for the space set to house Dawahare's, said Tim Sittema, senior vice president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Crosland LLC, which is developing the site in partnership with Greenville, S.C.-based Carolina Holdings Inc.
But Sittema said he is confident that the Richmond Centre will thrive.
”Richmond Centre is going to be a great asset to the community, and it's looking better and better as we get more of the construction complete,“ Sittema said.
The center, like other open-air complexes, is built to satisfy the traffic patterns of growing cities, Dahlstrom said. The locations of the older, enclosed malls are no longer as attractive to consumers who have moved further out into the county.
New shopping centers also have more space for growth than older malls, which are fairly landlocked, Dahlstrom said.
The Richmond Mall is on the Eastern Bypass, the main artery that circles Richmond. Strunk, the mall's manager, said the shopping center is in a good location between Wal-Mart and Kroger and next to U.S. 25, which leads to Berea.
”You want to be where everybody else is at,“ Strunk said. ”Those are strong businesses that have been there for awhile.“
Richmond Mayor Connie Lawson sees benefit in having both shopping centers in Richmond.
She said the new complex ”will be positive for the community because it will bring in money that we would otherwise not have.“
Lawson, who is also a real estate agent, said she thinks tenants will want to move to a well-established location such as the Richmond Mall where they can pay lower rent than they would at other sites.
Though the mall will initially suffer from its losses, ”I believe it will recover from it,“ Lawson said.
Last week, shoppers visited the Richmond Mall to take advantage of storewide clearance and going-out-of-business sales.
Emily Agee, who stopped in to the mall's food court for lunch Friday, said it's going to be sad to see the larger stores leave.
”It's going to kill this end of town,“ she said.
But Agee, 50, is already expecting to make lots of trips to Richmond Centre, which is closer to her home in Richmond.
”I've already told my husband I'll be stopping there pretty frequently,“ she said.
Agee and co-worker Carolyn Nipper, 40, agreed that there need to be more big-name stores in the city, such as American Eagle, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, or the Gap.
”You gotta have a reason to come to the mall,“ Agee said.