As stores pack up and leave, Richland Mall looks for a rebirth

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

FOREST ACRES, SC (WIS) - Developers of the property now known as Richland Mall say the shopping center has a bright future, despite the recent shutdown of the popular S & S Cafeteria and the loss of other major retailers at the Forest Acres location.

But developers also say the mall may never return to the days when it was filled with prestigious stores like Sak's and Parisian.

Some people still refer to the mall as "Richland Fashion Mall," though it hasn't been known by that name for years. More recently, the mall at Trenholm and Forest was called "Midtown at Forest Acres."

Its new owners renamed the property last year, calling it the "Richland Mall." If only it was so easy to change what the mall offers, and make it more attractive to prospective tenants and customers.

Richland Mall still has one big anchor department store, a Belk that's reportedly been doing solid business. But the mall also has large areas of empty space. The closing over the weekend of the S &S Cafeteria means one less reason for customers to drop in.

The mall property has been under new ownership for about a year. One owner, Don Taylor, told us by phone his company is working to stabilize the number of retailers still here.

At least one of them, art gallery owner Rita Smith, says a down economy and the loss of foot traffic has made for a tough business environment.

"It is not good. As I said the only thing that is good as far as we are concerned is that we are a destination store. And that's the only thing that keeps us going because people say they love my gallery and they come back each year for gifts because it's unique in that respect.

Midlands shopping developer Alan Kahn is working with the owners of Richland Mall. He says interest shown by anchor store prospects leave him encouraged about the mall's future.

Taylor says when the redevelopment plan comes together, the mall will more likely end up containing a mix of retail, offices, extended medical care and even condominiums.

He says one key to attracting more visitors is better signage. Right now, it can be difficult for people passing by to figure out what's inside Richland Mall.

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