Richland Mall has seen a lot of things in the past nine years – including four different owners and three name changes – but what it hasn’t seen is a steady group of tenants willing to set up shop.
Only 29 of the 87 available spaces are occupied in the mall at Forest Drive and Beltline Boulevard, leaving plenty of available square footage. Vacancies include four large department store spaces ranging from 49,815 square feet to 96,936 square feet, as well as a wide range of smaller spaces.
The center’s most loyal tenants have split. S&S Cafeteria lived in the mall for 26 years before departing on Jan. 30, 2011.
The manager of S&S at the time, Mike DeLaney, was optimistic about the future of the mall in February 2010 when it had just been bought by Century Capital Group LLC for $4.4 million (a group of Florida investors originally put the mall on the market for $28.5 million the year before).
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“Everything they said sounded very encouraging,” DeLaney said then. “They (were) going to go out and aggressively look for tenants.”
But approaching the five-year anniversary of the sale, the owners have brought in only a handful of tenants – and most of them are not retailers. They are theater groups, a karate school and even a koozie manufacurer.
The company called in longtime Columbia developer Alan Kahn to recruit major anchor tenants. But potential deals to bring in retailers such as Whole Foods have slipped away. The grocer chose another location a couple of miles away.
Rumors abound that the mall is under contract again, but efforts to reach the owners at Century Capital Group were unsuccessful.
When the center opened in 1988 as Richland Fashion Mall, replacing a popular open-air shopping center, it had a high-brow Bonwit Teller department store and high hopes for being a regional mall that would draw in consumers from 100 miles away. But Bonwit closed two years later and the mall – with a large parking garage out front – never flourished into what developers originally hoped.
The future of Richland Mall now is in flux. Belk and Barnes & Noble remain the mall’s only anchors, but the owners have boosted the number of tenants to 29 from 18 in the past few years.
The mall also has lots of visibility. A 2010 traffic count revealed that a total of 49,000 vehicles pass the mall every day while traveling on Forest Drive and Beltline Boulevard.