"An important aspect of SouthPark which is not yet understood is that SouthPark is more than a retail establishment. It is a community resource that will be used for entertainment, travel and education. An exhibit in our mall, for example, could be seen by as many as 175,000 people in a week, which is greater exposure than possibly anywhere in town." -- Bennett Woll, project manager for SouthPark Mall, on its Feb. 26, 1974 grand opening.|
The man responsible for the original design of the mall for developer General Growth was right about that and a number of other things, including this, "I see SouthPark as being a real plus to different parts of the community. We'll pay taxes and where will the taxes go? Back to the people."
And for 40 years, it has. But modern times and changing retail behavior, particularly during the last decade or so, have meant leaner times for this former Q-C retail hub that lost some of its luster, many of its key shops and the customers who once flocked there.
The decline is hardly a newsflash to Quad-Citians. But as Macerich, the new owner, gets ready today to inject new life into the mall, it's a good time to revisit the reason that this huge project -- eight years in the making -- first was brought to our community. And the advantages we hope a revitalization of this retail center will mean for Moline and the Quad-Cities today.
Celebrating that new beginning is at the center of the groundbreaking and demolition party at 4 p.m. today at SouthPark Mall to which the public is invited.
"This event focuses on a huge milestone in the redevelopment process," said Kathy Jurgens, SouthPark Mall property manager. "The end result will ultimately provide our community with a more dynamic lineup of retailers in an updated setting."
Before Macerich can launch Phase 1 redevelopment, crews will demolish the former Sears department store and food court. Then it can begin to create the kinds of modern spaces that mall-goers these days want.
A recent visit to the mall hints at the good things to come. Tried and true tenants are developing prototype stores. Others will get facelifts. Updating is the key ingredient of this first phase with new entrances, landscaping and signs, upgraded restrooms, enhanced lighting, carpeted areas, paint and an enlarged common area with seating and new WiFi capabilities. The goal is to hold a pre-holiday shopping season November grand opening, though retailers inside and outside of the mall will remain open throughout construction and Quad-Citians are encouraged to stop in and shop.
Indeed, where things go from here will be up to Macerich, to potential tenants, and of course, to potential shoppers who we hope can be persuaded to return to this former retail hub to see the new things happening there.
For now, however, we urge you to join with us in celebrating this new beginning and thanking the host of people who made it possible, led by Macerich for its welcome and immediate commitment to revitalizing a mall too long ignored by former owners. The icing on the cake is that the city isn't advancing a single dime of taxpayer money to make the project happen.
A round of applause too, to members of the business community and city leaders who refused to watch this retail center die without a fight. Additional kudos to the Quad Cities Chamber for providing the money for the TIF study that made the renovation possible. Retail developments aren't typically in the chamber's bailiwick, but leaders recognized the importance of a revitalized SouthPark to the Illinois Quad-Cities and to the bistate region.
And don't forget the yeoman's effort that went into convincing the Illinois Department of Transportation to allow a direct entrance to the mall on John Deere Road that was critical to the project.
There is a long road ahead, but today represents a welcome new beginning and offers the promise of more. If you can, drop by SouthPark Mall today and join the celebration.