The new owner of Independence Mall in Wilmington is in the midst of planning the regional shopping center's transformation, including rebranding the center as The Collection at Independence and aiming to remove sections of the mall's interior to modernize the property.
Earlier this year, Rouse Properties purchased more than half of the mall, which in total includes more than 1 million square feet, in transactions that were valued at more than $54 million and included the Sears space, according to New Hanover County property tax records. The change came as the property was in the midst of foreclosure proceedings, resulting from the previous owners defaulting on a $110 million loan, and was facing a potential auction on the county courthouse steps.
Company officials had released a brief description of plans for the mall's redevelopment on the firm's website this summer. On Wednesday, Brian Harper, CEO of Rouse Properties, shared more information on what his company wants to create with The Collection at Independence.
"We are in the process of designing a plan that will transform the currently enclosed Independence Mall into a contemporary mixed-use center that will be rebranded as The Collection at Independence," Harper said in an email. "This will consist of us removing sections of the mall’s interior to allow for exterior-facing retailer entrances and the construction of an engaging restaurant streetscape that will house several high-volume restaurants and first-to-market retailers."
Harper said in the email that during Rouse's planning phase for the mall, company officials "are working closely with the city to conceptualize how we can move forward with our vision to restore the shopping center to a position of prominence within the market. We are really looking forward to unlocking the true embedded potential of the property and bringing to this community a retail experience that is unlike anything else in the market."
Although Harper said he could not comment on current lease negotiations, he could say that Rouse has received a high level of interest from tenants that would be new to Wilmington that want space at The Collection at Independence.
Harper said in the email that Rouse expects to be able to share more details about leasing activity at the mall, 3500 Oleander Drive, in the earlier part of next year.
He also said he'd like to hear from locals on what they would like the modernized mall to offer.
"We value the feedback we receive from our communities as it relates to new tenants, and we encourage those in Wilmington to share with us on social media the retailers, restaurants and lifestyle brands they’d like to see," Harper said. "Our goal is to deliver a merchandising mix and experience that is both unique and unmatched in the market."
When it comes to tenants, Rouse's goal "is to have a diverse lineup of both best-in-class national brands and local concepts. We like our merchandising mix to offer a bit of everything – fashion, dining, lifestyle, entertainment, etc. We look for what’s missing in the market and make a commitment to fill that void. We are very proud of our relationships with small business owners in our markets and feel they are very important to our success," Harper said.
He said he thinks shoppers are going to be excited by the finished product.
"We want to play our part in assisting with this revitalization, which we believe we can do by creating a lifestyle center that almost acts as a de facto downtown," he said.
Read more from Rouse CEO Brian Harper in the Dec. 15 print edition of The Greater Wilmington Business Journal.
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