Parts of the Sears building at the Quintard Mall in Oxford have already been reduced to scrap metal and concrete, but there’s work going on inside the mall, too.
Construction equipment spotted at the former site of a Sears department store this weekend signaled the start of exterior redevelopment on the mall property, purchased by Georgia-based Hull Property Group in late 2017 for $6.7 million. The City Council agreed in March to help fund redevelopment on the site, committing $16.5 million over a 25-year period to Hull. According to John Mulherin, the company’s vice president of government relations, the entire Sears building is slated for demolition and should be down within about two weeks.
Meanwhile, workers have already started pulling apart and rebuilding the interior of the mall. They’ve taken down ceiling tiles and have plans to raise the HVAC ducts and sprinklers to make way for higher ceilings, before adding new lighting, carpeting and putting sheetrock over vacant stores, which will be covered with murals depicting local history.
“The key here is the transformation of the property,” Mulherin said Monday. “All of these things help transform the way it looks and the way it feels.”
Interior construction may not be obvious on a visit to the mall, but Mulherin said that’s by design. He said a construction crew employing an estimated 25 or so workers arrive each night to pick away at the project and pack up before stores open. They “sheathe” the stores, he said, to protect windows and entryways from dust and other evidence the crew has been there.
Inside renovations should be finished by the end of fall, Mulherin said, before holiday shopping shifts into high gear for Black Friday and Christmas sales. Exterior renovations, expected to include outward-facing stores and updated mall entrances, should come later.
Mulherin said the mall’s renovation could serve as a catalyst for more development in the commercial corridors that surround it, along Alabama 21 and U.S. 78. Hull’s company strategy, used on more than 30 mall properties across the eastern United States, has been to “stabilize, transform and reposition,” Mulherin said, to draw in quality tenants inside and out, which could help attract new business near, but unrelated to, the mall property.
“It’s not just about us, it’s about everybody in the node. If we can all get incrementally better each and every day, we’re going somewhere,” he said.