By JACK WEATHERLY
With the pomp and ceremony of a major government facility dedication, the “new” Northpark Mall was opened Thursday.
The 34-year-old mall is undergoing a multimillion first phase makeover that started in February.
A gathering of a 100 or so — including Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee, aldermen, chamber and auxiliary officials, including those from Rankin County and even First Lady Deborah Bryant — were on hand.
After a dedicatory prayer and the raising of the Stars and Stripes by a Marine unit and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, many little speeches were given and names of those without speeches cited.
Fiscal contributions attributed to the mall ranged from $60 million from the “mall area,” according to McGee, to 30 to 40 percent of the tax base for the city from other sources.
The program was not without humor. Mall General Manager Kasey Dickson, who said she learned that “there are two seasons — winter and construction.”
She said in an interview after the ceremony that she hopes the major checklist items that are unfinished, including the redone main entrances, would be completed in about a month.
Pacific Capital Retail Partners of El Segundo, Calif., bought the 958,000-square-foot enclosed mall in September 2016 from Simon Properties, which had owned and operated it since the beginning.
In recent years, the mall had lost a number of prestige tenants to other shopping centers, and that fits into Pacific Capital’s business plan.
Its website says that Pacific Retail “has proven expertise in identifying under-managed centers with strong fundamentals and acquiring them for redevelopment into higher quality properties.”
Najla Kayeem, senior vice president for Pacific Retail, said: “Our work with local partners and key business and government leaders helps us remain committed to . . . transforming Northpark into a modernized, family-friendly gathering place.”
A colorful children’s play area called Discovery Park and the adjacent Eatery were there for the using.
Also refreshed are the floors and improved interior lighting along with redesigned major entryways, resurfacing of parking and extensive landscaping.
Additionally, the food court has been enlarged into an open space called The Eatery, which features a high-resolution media wall that streams live television, movies, gaming tournaments and posts the latest deals and events in the mall.
A Family Lounge with private nursing rooms, diaper-changing areas with sinks and a “large child-friendly restroom” with tiny toilets for tots, the Discovery Park, a children’s play area, an interactive panel for children showing animated figures doing the latest dance craze, “the floss,” an extensive wall mural with Mississippi flora and fauna, all to create “an inviting, open imaginative garden with areas for kids to run, learn and explore.”
The owners said from the outset that they want local input. To that end, the winner of a competition to establish another cafe in the Eatery will be held Dec. 1. Twelve local chefs and restaurants are in the competition, said Dickson.
All merchants are greeting the reinvigorated mall enthusiastically, Dickson said.
American Eagle Oufitters, which has been in the mall for at least 20 years, likewise is emboldened by the renovation. “I’m really impressed with the makeover,” said Angel Owen, a manager.
Reeds Jewelry has been in the mall from Day One in 1984.
“I’m very excited. It’s very family friendly,” said Colette Eubanks, a manager for Reeds, part of a 60-plus-store independent chain based in Wilmington, N.C., and founded in 1941.
“The staff [of the mall management] has been working very diligently, and we’re just very excited about the upcoming holiday season.”
Dickson said the strategy was to be up and running smoothly before Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the unofficial first day of the Christmas shopping season.
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