Gwinnett Place Mall’s name carries such a stigma that the group trying to revitalize the area around the mall won’t rule out a name change.
The Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District leadership understands the mall will always have an oversized impact on its surroundings.
But the mall itself appears to be in its death spiral, at least as a retail center, and that has Gwinnett Place CID Chairman Leo Wiener worried. Adding to his worries are signs that Moonbeam Capital, the mall’s owner, appears to be in no big hurry to develop, or even announce plans for, the aging mall.
Moonbeam founder and CEO Steve Maksin recently told other media outlets that his plans for the mall, long promised for March, will not be announced until some ambiguous future date.
Wiener cringed at that. “I think that kind of puts the nail in that coffin,” he said.
The era of the huge enclosed mall is in decline nationally, but Gwinnett Place is far ahead of that trend. It closes early, many smaller spaces are empty and shoppers are few when it is open.
As head of the CID, Wiener is more than happy to point out the good things the area around Gwinnett Place has going for it. Redevelopment at strip shopping centers along Pleasant Hill Boulevard is bringing retail back to the area.
Wiener points out that nearby retail space managed by his employer, Ackerman and Co., is near capacity. Car dealerships, including some luxury brands, are booming and putting investments into their facilities.
There is an affluent demographic around the area, both with office workers who come in during the day and with residents at night. Still, that isn’t enough. Wiener knows that the area’s perception, and possibly its fate, is linked to the mall itself.
One way around that could be creating a new focal point, perhaps a revitalized shopping area away from the mall. Perhaps it would be some sort of central green space. “If we could do that, our future wouldn’t be tied to the mall,” he said.
Asked if changing the name of the CID to something other than the mall’s name, Wiener said it has been discussed and remains a possibility. “Potentially in the future we will do that,” he said. “It is a little too soon. Certainly that is an uphill battle.”
It is a battle he thinks can be won by bringing in more medium-rise, higher-density residential space. He sees the current mall site as the perfect location for some sort of living space, with perhaps a few of the anchor stores left in place.
And the development, whatever it may be, will reflect the change in the community around the mall. “It is going to have an international flavor to it,” he said. His best-case scenario is a residential mix with some sort of transit option in place. His worst is the mall continues to decline and the surrounding area is unable to isolate the blight.
He is determined to make sure the worst doesn’t happen, even if Moonbeam continues to drag its feet. “There is a lot more to that area than the mall,” he said.