Columbia mall renovations in store

The changes are to start in January 2004.
Sunday, November 16, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:57 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

The Columbia Mall is scheduled to have a new look beginning in January, and it’s not just because the holiday decorations will have come down.

General Growth Properties Inc. announced plans Friday morning to update Columbia Mall.

The construction plan, which has been in the works for a couple of years, includes expanding the window wall of the Cafe Court outward into a rotunda shape to create more space inside, mall spokeswoman Katie Essing said. The indoor atmosphere is to have a new “streetscape design,” meaning that the fronts of the restaurants in the court are to be remodeled so customers will feel as if they were walking down a street lined with old buildings.

“If you look at the tile, even our logo, it just screams 1985,” Essing said when talking about the need for remodeling parts of the mall.

There is to be new family and public restrooms in the court and a full-sized carousel where Santa is now seated during the holidays. New tables and chairs will be themed in a way that will give the indoor court an outdoorsy feel, Essing said. Soft chairs are to be sprinkled throughout walkways in the mall for customers to sit down and rest while they shop.

A children’s play area is planned for the Dillards wing. It is to be similar to other popular mall playgrounds, such as what shoppers find in the plush new West County Mall in St. Louis.

As for the rest of the mall, more skylights, more seating areas and more upgraded mall signs are all in store.

Essing said the motivation behind this project was to update the mall and aesthetically catch up with other public facilities.

“This facility is 18 years old, and it’s in need of an upgrade. Our customers deserve that, they deserve the amenities they can find in St. Louis or Kansas City,” Essing said.

Keith Daise, group manager with General Growth Properties, said the biggest effect of the renovation on mall shoppers will be to provide them with more entertainment. “It makes the shopping center not only more enjoyable, but it’s more entertaining for the younger families to bring their kids and ride the carousel, play in the soft play area,” Daise said.

General Growth Properties is the country’s second-largest owner, developer and manager of regional shopping centers. The multimillion-dollar renovation is set to begin in January 2004, after the busy holiday season, and end in late summer 2004. The exact cost of the project has not been determined yet, Essing said.

Most of the indoor construction is to be done at night, so as not to affect business. During the day, when construction is being done on the window wall, a barricade is to separate it from the hustle and bustle of the food court.

When asked if competition from next-door neighbor Famous Barr drove any of the construction plans, Essing said, “We’re actually thrilled they’re here because we could not fit them as an anchor at this mall, and its something that will keep customers from driving to Kansas City or St. Louis to find a Famous Barr. So the fact that they’re our neighbor is very exciting to us,” she said.

Chris Araiza, general manager at Sbarro in the Cafe Court, said he thinks a fresh look will help business. His only concern is that the construction process might annoy mall guests. “If there is a concern, it’s how they’re going to address traffic flow and parking. We don’t want to inconvenience anybody,” Araiza said.

Daise said the construction won’t affect the ring roads, so it really won’t affect parking lot traffic too much.

Eddie Bauer’s assistant store manager, Paula Thurmond, said that after talking with people from the mall office, she is not worried about construction. “I’m excited; I think it’s great the mall is going to have a new look and some new amenities to offer to our customers,” Thurmond said.

When planning this change, Daise said the company considered what was needed to maintain things like occupancy and sales, but it mostly considered what the customers wanted. “We just felt it was the right thing to do. It’s going to be attractive to customers,” Daise said.

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