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A new owner's plans to revitalize the languishing Mall at Shelter Cove received a warm reception Wednesday from the Town of Hilton Head Island Planning Commission.
"You could be our hero," Commissioner Jack Docherty said of plans presented by Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial of Augusta, Ga., the development partner for the project. The firm will also manage the site.
A real estate affiliate of The Kroger Co. purchased the 42-acre property and 300,000-square-foot mall Aug. 10 for about $17.3 million, almost $7 million below its assessed market value and less than half of it's original sale price, according to Beaufort County property records.
Drawings call for tearing down much of the mall with the exception of the Belk department store and turning the property into a walking village of shops.
Kroger would serve as a secondary anchor and be located next to Belk in an effort to bring more traffic to help make the shopping center more successful, said Blanchard & Calhoun president Mark Senn.
The plans call for about 250,000-square-feet of new retail space, more open space and the addition of 220 apartments overlooking Broad Creek.
"Right now the mall is a fortress without any interaction with anything around it," Senn said. "We want to open it up so its relevant and has a relationship with the water." He said enclosed malls are falling out of favor around the country, largely due to overhead costs and operating expenses.
Shelter Cove, for example, costs about $12 per square foot to maintain, Senn said.
"The site has to function, be alive and profitable," Senn said of mixing open space with retail, restaurants and apartments. "We don't want to be the next person to drop that promise."
REMAKING THE MALL
The plan is the second attempt to remake the mall, which skirted foreclosure last year and has seen stores close or move off-island to the Tanger Outlets in Bluffton. Only ten tenants remain at the mall, which can accommodate about 45, said general manager Roni Allbritton.
"Some stores will be closing and some may come back to the new development but it's too early to say who or when," she said.
Mall officials won approval to add a theater in 2009 after some two years of effort, but could not get financing.
The new plan would require swapping 4.5 acres of town land at Shelter Cove Community Park for about 6 acres of mall property that would be used as a waterfront park that would include a promenade, boardwalks and pavilions overlooking the marsh.
Town Council would have to rezone the property to allow residential use, a move town staff supports.
The mall would also need approval from the Shelter Cove Harbour Co., whose covenants govern use of the site
"We see these plans as offering something much greater than we have now," Hank Johnson, community manager of the company, said.
Senn said his company hopes to have necessary permits to begin construction on the estimated $46-million project by March and be done within a year.
Wednesday's presentation was the second in as many days of plans aimed at breathing new life into the island's dated commercial centers.
Town Council on Tuesday viewed a conceptual plan by island developer J.R. Richardson that uses a mix of town land and private holdings in Heritage and Coligny plazas to turn the area into a park-like setting that includes improved leisure pathways, plazas and open space among outdoor cafes, shops and restaurants with condos and apartments above.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead