By JACK WEATHERLY
Work started Thursday on a new era for the 34-year-0ld Northpark Mall on the Ridgeland side of County Line Road.
Long the anchor of the mile-long retail corridor that historically dominated metro Jackson, the mall faced the daunting realities of the marketplace that has changed radically since 1984 across the country and world since the advent of the Internet and major players such as Amazon, not to mention other retail centers that have opened in the area.
Yet Pacific Retail Capital Partners of El Segundo, Calif. saw an opportunity to reinvigorate and to some extent reinvent the mall.
In September 2016, Pacific Retail announced that it had bought the 958,000-square-foot property from Simon Property Group for an undisclosed amount. Simon built the mall, operated it from the beginning and spent several million dollars on it in 1998.
A leasing agency for the mall said last year that the Pacific Retail renovation figure will be about $50 million. But Pacific Retail, a private firm, maintained that the price will be “multi-million dollar.”
Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee during his remarks on Thursday twice extolled the “safety” of shopping at the mall. Asked afterward why he emphasized that, he said that malls in general have an unwarranted reputation for safety risks.
Najla Kayyem, Pacific Retail senior vice president for marketing, told the gathering standing in the bright spring sun and brisk wind that “the new Northpark will re-imagine the mall as a sequence of experiences.”
“At the heart of this transformation is the repurposing of the . . . entrances and corridors . . . and communal gathering places,” Kayyem said. Public art will be installed outside and inside, she said.
In the children’s play area, a theater will be added and the food court will be “expanded and transformed into a spacious communal dining area with an intimate cafe-style dining experience.”
The owner is seeking a combination of local and national tenants, Kayyem said.
“We are open to any ideas or prospects that you guys have,” she said.
Phase one of the project is expected to be completed by the holidays at the end of the year, Kayyem said.
She told the local management that the challenge of meeting the ultimate goal will be “a long process and it’s not going to be easy.”
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