Mall seeking a new image
Renovations aim to attract crowds
One of Chapel Hill’s main shopping destinations is getting a multi-million dollar makeover.
Improvements to University Mall, which include the addition of tables and comfortable seating as well as physical enhancement of the mall’s exterior, will be completed by summer, said Paul Harnett, the senior vice president of Madison Marquette.
The Washington, D.C.-based company that operates mixed-use real estate bought the mall in 2007.
Harnett said his company is also trying to make the mall’s offerings more eclectic.
“We haven’t been doing the best that we can at serving local needs,” he said. “We’re not only interested in Chapel Hill residents. There’s a huge void in attracting the students.”
Harnett said he also hopes to attract patrons who live outside nearby communities.
The first phase of the renovation, which Harnett said is largely complete, aimed to add indoor space for socializing and relaxing.
Couches and tables have already been placed in at least four locations throughout the mall. There also is a stage for performances.
Shirley Morris, who shopped at the mall Monday, said she noticed the improvements immediately.
“Everything looks really good,” she said.
The second renovation phase, which consists of updating the building’s exterior to look more modern, is set to begin by March.
“The mall has kind of just made a more attractive place for customers to come,” said John O’Neil, owner of O’Neils Clothing, located in University Mall.
Harnett would not say the exact cost of the renovations but estimated the price tag at “millions upon millions.”
The most expensive component of the project is not the physical overhaul but the money needed to change the mall’s variety of stores.
Some businesses seeking a location in the mall are still in negotiations with Madison Marquette, Harnett said.
But one mall employee said the mall lacks the appeal of other malls.
“If you were to compare this to Southpoint or Northgate, there’s definitely no comparison,” said Steve Cizek, a purchase order agent at A Southern Season.
But Harnett said University Mall is looking to be different from The Streets at Southpoint by focusing more on full-service dining and women’s apparel.
“We believe by reworking our mix we are going to attract people,” Harnett said. “And we want to do that.”
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