» Metrocenter’s leasing agent and Jackson mayor agree mall’s future is in mix of small retailers and institutional users
Office Depot and another national retailer are negotiating for space in Metrocenter’s vacant Sears building, says Scott Overby, whose Jackson firm the Overby Company is handling leasing for the Sears-owned anchor building as well as the more than half million square feet of Metrocenter’s interior.
Sears vacated the the 240,000 building that includes 135,000 square feet of retail space in spring 2012 as part of a contraction that involved closing more than 100 stores nationwide.
“Sears is still a very good steward for the space,” Overby said. “Sears says we want to see the highest and best use for the building.”
To that end, Overby said he is talking with Office Depot and another large national retailer to split space on the building’s upper level.
In addition, he said he has a national clothing retailer that wants to set up in mall space next to Office Depot.
While securing leases from a pair of large national stores would be a big boost for efforts to revive the 35-year-old Metrocenter Mall, Overby agrees with Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba that the mall’s era as a retail center dominated by big retailers is over.
“We’re on the same page with the mayor,” Overby said.
“The days of a 250,000-square-foot retailer are gone.”
That’s one reason, said Overby, that he is in talks with a call center operation to lease 80,000 square feet in Metrocenter’s interior.
Lumumba envisions the Metrocenter as home to a mix of institutional users such as a community college, private colleges, medical providers and small retailers and restaurants.
Lumumba said in an interview last week that the City initiated the first step in establishing the mix by buying the former Dillards building and bringing several hundred workers into the building.
Metrocenter’s best strategy would be to follow that of the Medical Center Mall on Woodrow Wilson Avenue, which ironically was a thriving retail center until supplanted by Metrocenter decades ago.
“We need to take a note from the Medical Mall and abandon aspirations to bring in big box stores,” Lumumba said. “We need to make it a complex to serve the community with small stores and community meeting spaces included.”
Just as in the past when a large retailer would be a marquee tenant, a large institutional user such as a community college or private college could fill that role for today’s Metrocenter, the mayor suggested.
The other have would be small retailers, restaurants and businesses that cater to he people who work for or visit the institutional users, he said.
“They need to be attractive to the people drawn there to work.
“The reality is that an indoor mall (for retail) is really not a source of development in Jackson or anywhere else in the country.”
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