SEBRING – After seeing stores around him closing one by one over the two to three years, the owner of one of Lakeshore Mall’s shops said he hopes new ownership and perspective may bring changes and improvements to the 24-year-old mall.
The sale of the nearly 500,000-square-foot mall, 901 S. U.S. 27, for $14 million was announced Thursday, and tenants and management said they’re looking forward to a new direction to breathe new life into independent- and corporate-owned businesses.
“In the time I’ve been here, it’s generally been growing back, in my opinion, but there are closed shops. It’s a slow mall, there’s no doubt about it,” said Simon Roberson, owner of Shabby Sheek, an African clothing, jewelry, home decor and beauty products store. He said although the atmosphere is getting better, work still needs to be done on parts of a leaking roof and general clean-up.
“I hope that if someone puts that much money into it, they would already have looked to how to improve it,” he said.
Lakeshore Mall is a regional mall that opened in 1992. The mall has about 60 store-shop units, including five anchor stores: Belk, J.C. Penney, Kmart, Bealls and Sears and has a food court and movie theater.
The mall’s general manager, Jennifer Cheek, confirmed the sale by former owners CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. of Chattanooga, Tenn. to the new owner, BVB Properties Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., has been finalized.
She said improvements would begin next week, when B.V. Belk Properties owner B.V. Belk comes to Sebring with a crew of painters.
She said other initial upgrades would be renovations, landscaping, remodeled bathrooms and “a lot of changes.”
Cheek, who’s been with the mall since it opened, said a leasing company has been contracted by BVB Properties in an effort to attract more national tenants. She said Belk would waste no time in working to better the entire shopping center.
“He’s not going to let grass grow under his feet,The new owner is really taking an interest in the property and changing what needs to changed,” she said. “A lot of those changes will happen in the next few months.”
BVB Properties primarily owns shopping center around the south but bought the Southland Mall in Memphis, Tenn., in 2004 before acquiring Lakeshore Mall.
Belk said his company closed on the sale Wednesday afternoon and would be in Sebring with the paint crew Sunday and stay through Thursday. He said that work would be the first steps in making the mall be “the place to be in Sebring.”
Belk said Sebring and Highlands County needs a first-rate mall and it shouldn’t take long to get the shopping area to that point, starting with a focus on renovating the food court and bringing in a better mix of restaurants.
BVB Properties owns shopping centers in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and Alabama, with a mix of retail, restaurant, office and warehouse properties, in addition to outparcels and land for sale and lease.
“I think this is the perfect set-up. I think I can turn this around quickly and we’re going to make it look fresh again. We’re just going through it and getting our wish-list and do what needs to be done. Give us six months and we’ll be ready,” said Belk, whose company has been in business for 40 years. “I have no doubt I can make this mall as good as it once was.”