Auburn Mall rendering

A rendering shows the finished project to convert the former JCPenney store into an entrance and add additional spaces for exterior storefronts.

Good news came this week with the report that the Auburn Mall soon will be seeing renovations and change that could help boost its appeal and promote greater activity.

Although malls in many cities have lost their attraction to customers who are finding ease in shopping elsewhere, a vibrant community mall with a healthy business climate and safe indoor atmosphere for gathering with friends or walking the long hallways remains an important asset.

Collaborating with the city of Auburn, Hull Property Group has devised plans for an extensive project to convert the former JCPenney store into a new entrance and create space for potential exterior and outparcel stores.

“In today’s retail environment, there are very few first-class uses for a space of this size and age,” Hull Property Group managing principal Jim Hull told the Opelika-Auburn News.

“Demolishing the space will allow us to create sizeable retail offerings and will provide additional real estate for new outparcel opportunities,” he said.

Hull Property Group will demolish 35,000 square feet — 60 percent of the previous JCPenney location adjacent from East University Drive — as the first step in the Auburn Mall renovation process, marketing director Coles Doyle explained.

“After we’ve torn that down, we will be able to create a new retail space that will be exterior facing,” Doyle said. “There are a lot of different configurations we can work on, depending on tenant interest. We don’t know how many retail shops that will be at this time.”

The highlight of the new project will be the creation of an additional entrance in the Auburn Mall to have more accessibility to interior shops such as Dillard’s and popular eateries like the Ole Times Country Buffet.

“There are not that many big-box retailers that would have been able to move right into that space in a first-class retail setting like the Auburn Mall,” Doyle said. “There are not a lot of new retailers popping up. We worked a lot with the city of Auburn to develop a plan.”

Mall and city officials hope to have the renovations completed before the holiday season.

Wrangling tenants for the newly provided and smaller partitions makes sense and will be key to the mall’s future success.

Although wonderful shopping experiences abound in the Auburn-Opelika area, from small, independent shops to vibrant downtowns, our community is better served for also having an indoor mall.

The bigger and better the overall attraction for shoppers to spend their time and money in Lee County, the bigger and better becomes our local retail economy.

The Auburn Mall deserves kudos for trying to find a strategy that works.

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