Despite a number of vacancies at the site, the management of the Woodland Mall is optimistic as it fights to increase occupancy.
|The main entrance to the Woodland Mall. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
"As the manager and as I speak with the owners, we want this mall to succeed," said Michelle Barton, manager of the Woodland Mall, in a recent email interview.
"The mall is not closing nor are we looking to be sold," she noted later.
"We understand that there are some vacancies here at the mall, in which every day we work diligently to try to fill them either with national or local tenants. We continue to keep the square footage pricing comparable to our surrounding areas and local area."
On a visit to the mall on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year seemed to have brought out a number of patrons. Parking lots there were populated with hundreds of cars, and anchor store Elder-Beerman bustled with customers. The interior of the mall also featured numerous shoppers, as well as vendors' tables set up throughout the facility.
However, about 13 vacant storefronts could be counted in the mall, among approximately 43 business sites.
Among the vacant spots is the third anchor store space, which in past years had been filled by a Hills store and a Steve and Barry's apparel store. Recently, Subway, a longtime tenant in the mall's food court area, closed, as did Sweet Heaven, a candy store located near the Woodland Mall Cinemas.
"I understand that the vacancies do not go unnoticed by the community," said Barton, "however what does go unnoticed is the scene in the background and all the work that is put forth to keep the mall alive."
Indeed, there is some movement of business into the mall. Pastor Larry Whatley of Turning Point United Methodist Church, which recently moved back to the facility, noted that "the reason we came back was we were very well-received by the management there."
"We hope we can bring life back to the mall with our being there," he said. "Of course, after church, we're always looking for a place to have lunch or shop and the mall is a perfect place for that. We're hoping with our people we can restore life to the mall, especially with the holidays coming around. Our people are excited to be there" and want to help as much as they can, he said.
Barton suggested that a new move on the part of the mall could pay dividends in the future.
"Currently, we have signed a new leasing contract that we feel very optimistic about. The company that we signed with is well known, professional, and quick to turn areas around. With that being said we feel that it is another step forward for what we would like to see happen here."
|Dancers reherse for an upcoming holiday show at Julie's Dance Studio located at the Woodland Mall in Bowling Green.
She stated "we are pleased with what our leasing plan is for 2014."
Barton indicated that things are positive for the remaining anchor stores at the mall, including Elder-Beerman and Dunham's Sports.
"Our anchors and movie theatre are currently in active leases and will remain that way in the future," she stated in the email. "Sales are good for our anchors and our theatre."
Keri Marten, manager of mall fixture Quarters Bar and Grill, took note of the mall's current issues.
"Not so great," she said of how she felt the mall was doing. "It seems like there's a store leaving every day. I mean, Subway just left, the candy store shut down."
"We do have a steady business," she said of Quarters, which is under new owners. "With the new ownership comes many changes, and we've made quite a few of them for the better. Our hope is just to keep increasing the business."
Julie Setzer, of Julie's Dance Studio, which has been in the mall for a number of years, said things are positive for her business.
"My business is doing great," she said. "You know, we don't depend on mall traffic or anything like that."
She acknowledged the struggling atmosphere at the mall, but said "I know they have plans for the future," including the new leasing agent.
"Hopefully in 2014 we'll see a turnaround here," she said.
Barton stated her feeling that "we lack help from various entities of the city," and also noted that the mall's fortunes faltered with the national economy.
"I feel things became difficult in 2008 with the continued fail of the economy. I believe that the location that was chosen for the mall back in 1980 wasn't the best location that could have been picked; however it stands where it stands today and people of the present work with what we have been given.
"National tenants aren't opening up all over like they use to," she continued. "Currently there are several guidelines that have to be passed and the mall has challenges" including the facility's square-footage, "per mile radius population, per mile radius income, and location of the mall; however we feel that (with) those guidelines and our new leasing company we will prevail."
Additionally, she noted that the loss of the Steve and Barry's anchor store several years ago "was a huge impact, because Woodland Mall invested a lot of money into the tenant improvement and build out and lost it all because Steve and Barry's bankrupted all 200 of their stores within seven years of opening them. Mall ownership unfortunately was not the only landlord that suffered across the United States because of this business plan."