Dutch Square Mall will celebrate its last holiday season with major anchor tenant Belk. The retailer will close its Dutch Square location mid-January to focus on its three other Midlands’ department stores.
The closing will leave a hole in sales and space for the 40-year-old center in a first-ring suburb on Bush River Road.
Once Belk is gone, the shopping center will have 315,638 square feet vacant, according to Ben Johnson, research director for the CBRE Columbia commercial real estate firm. That’s about 57 percent of the mall’s 554,000 square feet. There are an additional 20 spaces available out of the 69 in the mall, according to Johnson.
Back in the 1970s and ’80s when the mall was new, it had a strong tenant list and a full basket of shoppers. But in recent years, the mall has suffered losses. It still has a popular movie theater, a Burlington Coat Factory and an Office Depot. And a Planet Fitness opened there last year.
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But as the population shifted closer to Lake Murray, many of the shoppers migrated to the newer Columbiana Centre. A devastating recession also made spaces in the mall hard to fill in the past seven years.
For Belk, it was a difficult decision to leave, the company said in a statement.
It “was made only after a careful evaluation of our business plans and competitive position in the Columbia market,” the statement read. “We believe closing the store is in the best long-term interests of Belk and our stockholders.”
The company told the 91 workers at the Dutch Square store about the closing in September. The store, which replaced a JB Whitein 1998, will close in mid-January. A going-out-of-business sale started on Nov. 2.
Belk is in the process of a $6 million renovation and expansion of its flagship Columbiana Centre store in the Harbison area. That includes refreshing the current store and the opening of a 50,000-square-foot, standalone men’s store in the mall’s former Sears location. Construction is set to begin next month on the men’s store, which is scheduled to open in March 2015. The Charlotte-based retailer also has stores in the Village at Sandhill in Northeast Richland and Forest Acres’ Richland Mall.
Even without Belk, the owner of Dutch Square, Phillips Edison, remains optimistic about the future of the mall.
Phillips says the 40-year-old mall’s location along Bush River Road provides Dutch Square with plenty of parking and visibility from nearby interstates. And some market experts say that could lead to non-traditional uses for the big, empty space, such as an office building.
Any use most likely would be welcome because it would bring in a built-in daytime population of potential shoppers and diners.