Village at Sandhill developer Alan Kahn has been tapped to breathe new life into Midtown at Forest Acres. And his first act will be to give it back its old name - Richland Mall.
Kahn will handle management and leasing at the mall, and will become a part owner with Century Capital Group for an undisclosed amount.
Kahn said he plans to recruit more high-end clothing stores and include residential and offices, although no details have been worked out.
"We're doing a master plan ... and we're working on it assiduously," he said.
The mall sold for $4.4 million in February to Century Capital, its third new owner in five years.
The amount was a far cry from the $28.5 million asking price when the mall at Forest Drive and Beltline Boulevard was placed on the market a year ago.
William B. Walkup and Don E. Taylor, longtime Columbia developers and the managing partners of Century Capital Group, selected Kahn Development Co. after an extensive interview process that included some of the top names in retail development, they said in a statement.
Kahn's charge is to turn around the mall, which has struggled in recent years to keep and attract tenants, with large stretches on both levels going dark over the past few years.
"We are trying to be all-inclusive and bring it back to its former glory," he said. "It had wonderful tenants in its heyday. And we're going to make it a fashion center again."
But Kahn said the stores that are left are solid and a good base to work from.
"Belk, Regal Cinema, S&S Cafeteria, Barnes & Noble - that's a pretty darn good start," he said. "And it's always been a very well-received center."
Kahn didn't give any clues to which stores might come, but said there was "good interest." He did not rule out opening second stores for retailers already located at his Village at Sandhill development.
"There's not a lot of overlap between those two markets," he said.
And he said he would like a residential component, but hasn't developed any plans as yet.
Formerly known as Richland Fashion Mall, the shopping center hit a turning point in 2005 when a group out of North Carolina bought it for $19 million, according to county property records, and announced a $300 million plan to renovate it into a lifestyle center.
Plans called for turning the mall inside out, adding professional offices, putting condos on top of the parking garage and building a retirement community and condo hotel in the former Dillard's space.
But those plans never got off the ground, and the recent sellers, an ownership group based in Sarasota, Fla., bought the mall out of foreclosure in 2007 for $1.5 million, according to county property records.
Walkup said in a statement his group is looking for public guidance on what the community would like the mall to be.
"We are deeply appreciative of the input and support we have received from the community in a very short time," he said
In a Facebook group called "Please bring some nice stores to Richland Mall," some of its nearly 1,200 members said they want merchants not yet in the Columbia area - IKEA, Trader Joes, Pottery Barn and an Apple store.
Taylor said t is too early to name specific retailers. But, "We do not have any limitations on whom we will seek as quality tenants."
A Verizon call center that has occupied a 162,000-square-foot chunk of the mall for the past decade has announced plans to move to Northeast Richland next year. The center has a different owner and is on the market for $16.2 million.