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News On The Mall of Memphis Site

We received an email today from one of our contributors noting that the Wal-Mart considered for the Mall site was out. Sure enough the paper carried the story below. Several people had commented on the state of crime in Memphis and in that area in general. Our own research has shown the former Malls zip code is often ranked as the most dangerous zip and the Malls address on American Way is often listed as the most dangerous street in all of Memphis.

For the year the mall closed, it is interesting to note the FBI depiction of crime in Memphis.

Wal-Mart Will Not Build On Mall Grounds

By Amos Maki

Credit: Memphis Commercial Appeal

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., concerned about opening too many stores too fast, has dropped plans to build a Supercenter at the old Mall of Memphis site, dealing a blow to officials who hoped to redevelop the area.

Now, the property's owners, a division of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., and city officials will have to jump-start the redevelopment process without a major anchor store to attract more investment.

"That is a very important piece of property and it almost has to be a public-private partnership," said Robert Lipscomb, director of the city's Division of Housing and Community Development.

Local government and real estate officials said previously that landing Wal-Mart was the best possible outcome for the site, former home of the 1.2 million-square-foot mall, because the company's stores often act as magnets that attract other retail and dining options.

Bentonville, Ark.,-based Wal-Mart was under contract to buy about 22.5 acres of the 95-acre site at Perkins and I-240, and even filed a site plan for a 176,000-square-foot store with the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Planning and Development.

But Wal-Mart spokesman Dennis Alpert said the retailer was no longer pursuing those plans.

"We no longer have a contract on that property," he said.

Danny Buring of The Shopping Center Group said he thought that Wal-Mart was missing a great opportunity to build a new store along the Interstate 240 loop.

"I think it would have been a great location for them," said Buring, citing the location's visibility and interstate access.

Wal-Mart announced in June it would slow its expansion in the U.S. after building hundreds of stores each year to increase its market dominance. The scaling back of new stores was a result of Wall Street concerns that the retailer's new stores were stealing sales from existing outlets.

"Its not just in Memphis or Tennessee, but across the country," Alpert said. "The company decided to focus on existing stores and take a break on expansion."

Wal-Mart operates an existing store near the Mall of Memphis site, in the Delta Square shopping center on American Way.

According to a 2005 report by the Congress for the New Urbanism and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, redeveloping abandoned mall sites is a Herculean effort "shared by multiple stakeholders -- not only property owners, but mayors and other civic leaders play a significant role in turning a problem property around."

The mall closed in December 2003, 22 years after it opened to much fanfare. Once the crown jewel of Memphis retail -- shoppers from across the Mid-South packed its stores and ice skating rink for years -- the mall began to suffer in the 1990s.

A declining neighborhood, combined with bankruptcies of large national and regional retailers and some high-profile crimes, led some stores to leave even before the 1.1 million-square-foot Wolfchase Galleria opened in Cordova in 1997.

Other mall merchants left in 2001, following the loss of anchor stores Dillard's and J.C. Penney.

In addition, the mall faced increasing competition, changing demographics and an industry-wide shift toward open-air "lifestyle centers" like the Shops at Saddle Creek or Avenue Carriage Crossing.

-- Amos Maki: 529-2351