Is the Aiken Mall a 'dead' mall?

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, May 23, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Some call it the Aiken Hall. Others, the Aiken Small. Aiken Mall shopper Scott Hall calls it the track.

"It's pretty much like a older person's track," he told News 12 outside the mall. "You go walking in there, and all you see is people just doing circles."

Now, the news is spreading. Hall's "track" is being foreclosed on. The current owner owes the bank $28,497,355.48. Aiken County Civil Court documents show the mall could be sold on June 3 to the highest bidder.

"I'm hopeful [a new owner will] redo the whole building and actually have more stores, more food courts, more life into the actual mall. I believe that'll bring more revenue into the actual building," Hall said.

Mall worker Ashley Campos tells News 12 that things are dead on most days.

"I know from the store I work at, I can look out the doors of our store and see nothing open," she said.

A website called Deadmalls.com agrees. It says the mall's had a "history of financial trouble," including another foreclosure. It calls the mall "dated" and "dark."

"Aiken Mall has been dying a slow and painful death for many years," the commentary reads. "If the time comes, and it probably will, eventually one or several of the mall's anchors will close. Then the mall will become a traditional dead mall, in a sense. If you ask me, though, it's been dead for years."

"It would be nice to have somebody that actually brings youthful stores there because we don't really have anything popular," Campos said. "I know Victoria's Secret is one [shoppers] want. Maybe like a kid's store. They got rid of the arcade."

News 12 archives show that Kirkland's and other stores closed their doors during 2009. Despite that, the mall management said it was at 90 percent occupancy. That's because it's based on the amount of square feet occupied, not the number of stores open and running.

Even back then, some were dissatisfied.

"It looks dark, and it just looks like a ghost town," said Fredericka Glover in 2009.

If you fast forward to today, some echo the same concerns.

"It's kind of like a ghost town. It reminds you of an old Western scene," said Devin Johnson, who works for a student ministry at USC Aiken.

During a trip through the mall earlier this year, News 12 counted 25 stores occupied and 24 vacant.

"The mall never even crosses the mind," Johnson said. "Unless it's a last-ditch effort to find a certain item."

Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Jameson says he doesn't expect the mall will closed. He says new ownership could mean a revitalization of the mall.

Click here to view the Aiken DeadMalls.com page.


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