The SouthPark area is transforming itself with construction. Its namesake mall is getting ready to do the same.
SouthPark mall said Wednesday it will start significant renovations this month to upgrade features both inside and outside, and expects to finish construction by the holiday shopping season. The mall would not disclose the project’s total price tag, but said the mall would remain open throughout the construction.
The renovations come as the SouthPark area experiences a building boom, with thousands of new apartments planned and two office towers going up.
They also come as retailers nationwide grapple with changing shopping habits, as more transactions move online. Despite that shift, business at SouthPark mall remains strong, said manager Randy Thomas, and the renovation aims to capitalize on the area’s growth.
“We’ve got to continue to offer the best shopping, dining and entertainment experience that we can,” Thomas said. “The only way to do that is to continually look to where we can improve.”
Plans for the mall’s interior include refinished columns, new luxury seating areas with enhanced Wi-Fi connectivity and chargers, new flooring and furniture in the food court, new interior signage and new accents throughout the mall including plants and floor coverings.
Exterior renovations include new painting and framing to the canopy at the mall’s main entrance, new seating near the main entrance and fountain, landscaping, new LED lighting and fountain improvements. The valet stand near the main entrance will also be redesigned.
Another exterior addition includes a two-sided gas fireplace that will be added to West Plaza, the outdoor space between Dick’s Sporting Goods and California Pizza Kitchen.
Construction is being handled by Gastonia-based Pinnix, Thomas said, and will take place mostly at night. He said the mall will have four or five additional updates about store relocations or additions in the coming month.
The last time SouthPark underwent a major renovation was in 2004 with the addition of the Nordstrom luxury wing and luxury retailers including Burberry, Kate Spade New York and Louis Vuitton.
Even with the shift to online shopping, malls have bounced back from the recession. Shopping center occupancy rates ended 2014 at 92.7 percent, the highest since the second quarter of 2008, according to data released in March from the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Jesse Tron, ICSC spokesman, said even successful malls need to keep investing in their property to stay competitive.
“You have to continue to outfit it it with the newest innovations, and you have to continue to deliver on the experience concept because the consumer has tons of different outlets and avenues to spend their money, not just retail,” Tron said.
SouthPark, the largest mall in Charlotte, is operated by Simon Property Group, which as of Dec. 31 owned or held interest in 207 properties in the U.S., including 109 malls and 68 premium outlets, according to its annual report. The Indianapolis-based group also owns Charlotte Premium Outlets and Concord Mills.
Once the site of a 3,000-acre farm, the area anchored by SouthPark mall has grown into one of Charlotte’s main business centers. The area has grown progressively busier and more congested over the years with more apartments, restaurants and retail.
About 30,000 people worked in the SouthPark area in 1995, according to Observer accounts at the time. Today, the SouthPark area has about 67,000 workers, according to estimates by the Charlotte Chamber and Charlotte Center City Partners.
SouthPark Mall, which opened in 1970, is 1.6 million square feet and is anchored by Belk, Dillard’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. Katherine Peralta