Richland Mall to be demolished and redeveloped, largest investment in three decades to Forest Acres

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Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 2:22 PM EST
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FOREST ACRES, S.C. (WIS) - A fixture of Forest Acres is being demolished and redeveloped.

The City of Forest Acres said the Richland Mall is scheduled to be sold and demolished, calling it the single largest investment in the area in 35 years.

Southeastern Development of Augusta, GA is under contract to purchase the property. It is estimated the redevelopment will provide a value of approximately $100 million. The plan on the 32-acre site includes mixed-use property for retail, a brewery or tap room, a large space for events and concerts, a grocery store, and apartments.

“This is a historic day for Forest Acres and Richland County,” says Forest Acres Mayor Frank Brunson.

Councilman Thomas Andrews said the city has spent two and a half years working on the project.

Richland Mall opened in 1961 and was the first mall in the area. The open-air center was later converted into an indoor mall in the 1980s. Currently, only three tenants are occupying the roughly one million square feet of retail space.

As part of the partnership, the city will purchase the green space for $3 million and oversee park development. The city said the company is expected to close on the property in the near future. The next step will include hiring an architect to draw plans for the site, which is expected to take at least six months.

Next Southeastern will rehab the old Parisian building along Forest Drive, Belk will relocate to the building once complete. This will take approximately 12 to 18 months, during that time Belk will remain open at their current store.

Afterward Southeastern will begin tearing down the structure, which should take roughly another 12 to 18 months. The mall is estimated at around 931,000 feet of concrete.

In total, the project is expected to take 10 years for all the retail, housing, and park to be completed.

That 10 years of work will change the front porch view of the mall’s neighbors on Collin Kelly Drive.

Dave Berlier described the empty mall as a “monstrosity,” but said he’s become accustomed to it.

He said despite its aesthetic failings, the mall has been quiet. He said he and his family have mixed feelings about the project.

“A lot of noise. A lot of construction. A lot of people. That’s a little concerning, you know to figure out what exactly is going to happen, how it’s all going to play out and we’re of the mind we don’t want to be here when it happens so the goal is to try to maybe move prior to all that. But really I think it’s great for the city. This big monstrosity of a thing is getting no use and making no money for the city, now we have an opportunity to turn that around,” he said.

Down the road, neighbor Greta Dobe also said she valued the quiet neighborhood.

“It’s really important, I mean that’s why I’m here and that’s why I’ve stayed here. You know? Back here we’re in the city but it feels like we’re not in the city, it feels like we’re out in the woods, especially in the back of the house. I’m going to miss that if that gets taken,” she said.

WIS asked Councilman John Barnes about the potential inconveniences of the work. He pointed to the substantial business investment in the area and the new park that will come with it.

“I think that’s going to be a much better alternative than frankly a gigantic million square foot eyesore,” he said.

Barnes described the project as a “game-changer” which will help anchor the city with new housing and retail opportunities.

WIS has embedded the full release below.

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