RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Richland County leaders are shopping around for places to move some of the county's offices - and potential locations include a couple of area shopping malls.
Three sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said officials are considering Columbia Place Mall and Dutch Square Mall for operations and services ranging from the Richland DSS headquarters and health department to sheriff's department and administrative offices.
Both indoor malls have lost major anchor stores in recent years and many of their retail spaces are vacant. This summer Sears closed its store at Columbia Place Mall, leaving Macy's as the shopping center's largest department store.
The University of South Carolina's Retailing Chairman Mark Rosenbaum says the trend affecting enclosed malls is nationwide and partly due to the explosion in online shopping.
"The physical mall is like the dinosaur," Rosenbaum said. "It's gone. We may miss it. We may study it. But the traditional mall is not going to come back."
A recent report by Credit Suisse estimates as much as 25 percent of the 1,100 malls in the United States will close by 2022. Columbia Place Mall is 40 years old and Dutch Square is 47 years old.
Sources say one proposal discussed by county officials involves an effort to buy Columbia Place, which offers more than a million square feet of retail space.
It's not clear how much that would cost. They also say Dutch Square could be home to administrative offices.
A move there could free up property on Hampton and Devine Streets, and provide a possible location for a court house to replace the aging Richland County Judicial Center.