CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Town Center Mall visitors -- like women checking out the mall's new first-floor clothing shops -- can't miss the renovations.Floor tile has been stripped from several floors, leaving bare concrete underfoot. There's a pile of dirt outside J.C. Penney where a planter used to sit. Overhead, painters are slowly turning the 23 roof trusses from green to white.You can't see the contractors on the job, though. They start at 10 p.m., after the mall closes, and pack up their toolkits before the mall reopens in the morning.The $7 million makeover, which started in mid-May, should be complete by November in time for the busy Christmas shopping season, Town Center Mall Manager Tom Bird told his landlords at the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority on Wednesday.CURA chose Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises to build the mall and nearby Marriott in the early 1980s. The agency receives lease payments for the ground under the parking garages and the main mall, but not the four anchor stores.The partnership has worked well for both parties, Bird said."This is the 30th year that CURA has been involved with Forest City," he said. "I think it's the perfect example of a public-private partnership.
"I think the city's decision to put a mall downtown was a wise one. When we bring people in from out of town, like Dillards, no one can believe this is in a city of 53,000. Over the years, Forest City has paid $15 million in ground rent that has been plowed back into the city."At the same time, the mall consistently has been one of top performers for Forest City, Bird said."We're here to make it even better and prepare for the next 30 years. We're upgrading our tenant base, and sales show it. We have the highest sales per square foot since we've been opened."
Among the renovations, Chicago contractor Graycorp is tearing out 140,000 square feet of tile and putting in new ceramic tile on the first and third levels. The second level will get green carpet tile.All existing handrails -- 23,000 linear feet -- will be replaced with a post-and-glass system, Bird said. "You almost can't see through the old one. It's like a picket fence. This will greatly increase the visibility. That will start Aug. 1."Another nice feature, we're redoing all the restrooms. They'll be completely gutted."First, the mall will add a family restroom on the third level, Town Center marketing director Lisa McCracken said, with private lounge areas for nursing moms.The center court also will get a makeover, without disturbing the popular Starbucks store, Bird said. "We'll demolish everything, all the planters." The new layout will be more flexible, he said.
In other business Wednesday, CURA board members:* Extended for another year a $15,000 grant to East End Main Street for the group's façade grants. EEMS director Ric Cavender said the group has committed $12,500 of the money to area business owners but, because of delays, none of the money has been spent.* Learned that no one has yet submitted a proposal to redevelop CURA-owned property in the 1200 block of West Washington Street after the agency advertised the site last month. CURA Director Jim Edwards said he expects at least one proposal by the deadline at 4 p.m. Thursday.* Agreed to advertise for redevelopment a home at 500 Thompson St., which was donated to CURA by the previous owners. It was recently appraised between $6,000 and $9,000, Edwards said."We have a developer who is interested. We need to go through the same process," he said. The home needs extensive repairs but is worth saving, Edwards said.Reach Jim Balow at email@example.com or 304-348-5102.