Change is coming to Singing River Mall in Gautier. Elements are being put in place to turn the aging traditional enclosed mall into an open air lifestyle shopping center in this city of 19,000 which draws shoppers from surrounding Jackson County.
No construction start date has been named for the multi-million-dollar project.
“There’s no definite date at this time because we’re in negotiations with our anchor tenants,” said Mall Manager Angela Bishop.
“The concept of open air shopping centers is the latest thing and will suit our lifestyle here very well.”
Bishop confirmed that the remake calls for the demolition of approximately 250,000 square feet of existing space and is a first step in the project that will encompass 350,000 square feet of mixed-use space. This mixed-use space will include anchor stores, junior anchors, smaller commercial businesses, office space, restaurants and parking space. A junior anchor is a store with about 25,000 square feet of space.
“I can’t give specific business names of new tenants, but we’ve been at conventions and talking to restaurants, businesses and possible office tenants and have had a lot of good feedback,” Bishop said. “With the new Wal-Mart locating adjacent to the mall, we’ll bring a lot of people together.”
An agreement has been reached with the city to locate the world’s largest retailer to connect with Singing River Mall and the new City Center. Bishop says a splash pad on mall property is near where the City Center’s large sculpture and round about are located. There’s also a walking trail and amphitheatre on the city’s property.
Gautier Mayor Tommy Fortenberry says he’s always thought “that mall could be the hub of Jackson County if we could ever breathe life back into it.” The city has invested $6.2 million of grant funds in beautification projects to aid economic development. Agreements have been forged between the city, Wal-Mart Real Estate Trust and developers SR LLC and SM Properties Gautier LLC to revitalize the area.
“I look forward to beginning the demolition process and completing the mall project,” Bishop said. “I’m excited about it. My hope for the mall remake is that it will rejuvenate the whole shopping experience for Jackson County.”
According to Mayor Fortenberry, this project is one of the largest redevelopment projects the city has seen in years and will help ignite more growth. “Enthusiasm is high in Gautier with the mall’s makeover, the new City Center and new Wal-Mart all tied together,” he said. “This has been long-awaited news and I know there are other great things coming with it.”
In recent years Singing River Mall has lost tenants. After Hurricane Katrina, some of the mall’s unused space was used by Ingalls Shipbuilding to operate administrative offices, but Ingalls stopped using the space in 2011.
On the website deadmalls.com, Michael J. Dixon wrote last October that the Gautier mall was a dying mall. “Once it was a thriving economic force on the Coast. However, Singing River Mall has fallen into economic turmoil in the past ten to fifteen years. I have fond memories of this mall growing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
He, mall officials and city leaders hope for a turn around and bright future for this mall that’s located on busy Highway 90.
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