Empty, the Food Court looks huge.
The soon-to-be demolished space inside Moline’s SouthPark Mall is awash in sunlight from the high, glass ceiling and empty/white walls.
“Sadly, that will go into the rubble pile,” property manager Kathy Jurgens said, her words echoing off the doomed dome above. “Change is hard, but change is good.”
The hard part about the shrinking of SouthPark is all the lost jobs, including 60 at Sears. The anchor was the first to drop and now sits outside the mall in piles of broken bricks, which will be put through a grinder on-site and recycled into a new parking lot.
The good part of the change is everything else.
SouthPark’s time had come. In fact, compared with NorthPark Mall in Davenport, SouthPark was downright neglected.
As evidence that bigger is not always better, owner Macerich wisely did what retailers hardly ever do and called in the wrecking ball. By the time the Food Court falls, the mall will have been reduced by 200,000 square feet.
One bit of news I learned Thursday is the popular playground, which was the centerpiece of the Food Court, is coming back. A mental-health lifesaver for parents when weather rules out the yard or the park, the playground will occupy space in a newly opened common area.
The stores in the middle of the mall walkway between Younkers and JCPenney also are being demolished. A former jewelry store, the mini-food court (Dairy Queen/Orange Julius already have built a new store next to Chick-fil-A) and a bath-product store are going.
“That walkway will be mammoth,” Jurgens said. “Standing at Younkers, you’ll be able to see JCPenney.”
Many of the elements that date the mall also are getting attention, including the planters that are original to the 40-year-old center. They will be torn out, along with the ceiling mirrors. And the pink ceilings (I admit: I never noticed) and other surfaces of the common areas will be painted.
“Our guests also are going to see some soft-seating elements,” Jurgens said, referring to the couches and chairs between walkway kiosks that always seem to be occupied by bored-looking men.
Many of the stores also are getting updates, including 11 relocated tenants that have committed to new storefronts and redesigned insides.
Despite the dramatic changes that are underway, it is important to note SouthPark is not a dusty construction site.
“Remember: SouthPark Mall is open for business,” Jurgens said. “We encourage people to shop throughout the construction season. We value them, as our shoppers and guests, in supporting SouthPark Mall.”
For shoppers, it’s encouraging to have something to support.