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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Liberty Fair Mall recruiting continues

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The new owner of Liberty Fair Mall remains committed to rejuvenating the area’s largest shopping center, despite its plans to demolish another mall, a company official said Monday.

“We’re still working on a redevelopment plan” for Liberty Fair, said Coles Hull, a marketing analyst for Hull Storey Gibson Companies LLC.

The firm bought the roughly 434,000-square-foot mall on Commonwealth Boulevard in Martinsville last May.

Vacant storefronts are among stores and businesses at the mall, especially along one of two main corridors.

Hull Storey Gibson is trying to recruit new stores to the mall.

“Retailers have shown interest” in locating there, but none have committed yet, Hull said.

Hull Storey Gibson closed the Wilson Mall in Wilson, N.C., earlier this month and plans to demolish the majority of it. Some anchor tenants will remain as freestanding stores and the firm aims to redevelop the mall as a “traditional shopping center” with stores that open to the outdoors, Hull said.

After buying Wilson Mall eight years ago, Hull Storey Gibson spent millions of dollars on improvements but customer traffic remained slow and stores there closed or moved to other shopping centers, according to published reports. The mall’s interior virtually had become empty.

Georgia-based Hull Storey Gibson owns 21 malls in the Southeast, including Liberty Fair and Piedmont Mall in Danville. Hull said the Wilson Mall is the first mall that the firm has ever decided to demolish.

She noted that “a new retail development in Wilson was a big competition for us.”

Published reports show that at least one major Wilson Mall store — the Belk department store — moved to the new Heritage Crossing shopping strip.

A Sears department store that had been an anchor tenant at Liberty Fair since the mall opened in the late 1980s closed in mid-December. Officials have said the retailer failed to come to terms on a new lease.

Sears still plans to establish a smaller, locally owned-and-operated “Sears Hometown Store” in the Martinsville area soon.

Chris Mock, Sears’ regional development manager, said Monday that the company has found someone to run the store. He could not identify her because an agreement is not yet finalized.

However, he said the prospective owner-operator is in the process of “exiting another business” she runs.

Hometown Stores are similar to the Sears catalog stores that were in small cities and towns before the company closed its catalog division in the early 1990s. They sell a limited variety of merchandise, mostly home appliances, electronics, lawn and garden equipment and tools, a Sears website shows.

A lease has not yet been signed for space for a Hometown Store, according to Mock.

He ruled out Liberty Fair Mall as a possible location.

 

 
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