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Officials voice optimism over Colonial Mall renovation

By Martin Burkey
DAILY Staff Writer · 340-2441

Company officials involved in the long-delayed $19 million renovation of Colonial Mall say the project may finally get moving this fall.

Colonial Properties of Birmingham asked the Decatur City Council last year for help to update the mall and keep it commercially healthy.

The council committed to a $4 million incentive package for the project to update the mall with a new façade and a new theater and to consolidate key anchor tenants.

Then the deal dropped off the community's radar.

The reason became apparent last month when Charlotte-based Belk Inc. announced a deal with Saks Inc. to buy 38 Parisian department stores in nine states, including the Decatur location in Colonial Mall.

Belk is the nation's largest privately owned department store company with more than 275 stores in 16 states in the Southeast, Southwest and mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S.

"Now that Belk has bought the Parisian stores, we're trying to get the process rolling again," said Brian Jones, vice president for redevelopment for Colonial.

"We're committed to it," he said. "If everything falls into place, we're going to do it."

That means Colonial and its slate of retailers all have to budget the renovation work, Jones said. But it's still not quite that simple because the mall's anchor tenants still aren't quite committed to the project, apparently.

"We are analyzing each store and have not made decisions," Belk spokesman Steve Pernotto said this week.

That analysis is supposed to be complete by Oct. 2, he added.

The planned renovation would consolidate five current Dillard's locations in the mall into one store and create a more contemporary exterior. But a spokesman for Dillard's said this week that the company is "looking at all options in light of the changed facts." She declined to elaborate.

City officials remain interested in renovation. Under the deal negotiated between Decatur and Colonial properties, all sales tax revenues above a baseline amount would be used to retire the city's $4 million loan on the incentive package.

"That's the critical thing so the citizens of Decatur aren't liable for the bill," Councilman Gary Hammon said.

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