By STEPHEN HADLEY
The little mall that never really did might finally have found new life.
When Mall of the Mainland opened to much fanfare in the area 23 years ago, there was optimism that the growing region would support a shopping complex with several major retailers serving as anchors.
But as the reality sunk in that its location — it’s mostly hidden from high-traffic Interstate 45 to the west — wasn’t optimal and that shoppers preferred the interior mall specialty store tenants of Baybrook Mall in Houston, the mall struggled before most of the facility was closed last year.
Sears, Palais Royal and the Cinemark movie theater remained opened even after Coastline Retail Center Inc., which purchased the mall in a foreclosure sale, closed the interior and terminated leases. But in the meantime, there were negotiations taking place that culminated with news this week that Friendswood attorney and developer Jerome Karam, along with an out-of-state partner, had finalized purchase of Mall of the Mainland, located at 10000 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway in Texas City.
We’re hopeful Karam’s purchase will continue to breathe new vitality into the mall and make it a viable shopping alternative for Galveston County residents for years to come. Already, Karam has made great strides in that direction.
Earlier this year, he opened a state-of-the-art World Gym in the space that was formerly occupied by Macy’s.
The gym, which has received rave reviews from locals, is the second largest World Gym opened in the state, and has provided a much-needed boost to Karam’s efforts to improve the appearance of the mall and jump-start the process of getting other local and national retailers to lease space in the 451,000-square-foot property.
Karam is also in the process of working to extend the lease of the Cinemark cinema past December 2016, when its lease is set to expire.
That’s good news because the cinema, despite what has happened with the anchor stores through the years, has continued to be a popular draw for local residents because of its convenient location and affordability.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in keeping current lessees and attracting new tenants will be in sprucing up the mall to make it a hospitable retail environment once again that can bring shoppers back and lure new ones off the interstate.
Ultimately, it will be up to the customers to determine whether this new iteration of Mall of the Mainland will be successful. With Karam’s track record thus far and his plans for the future, he’s off to a good start.