Military Circle Mall shoppers, merchants wonder what’s next

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The news of foreclosure at Military Circle Mall has shoppers and merchants uneasy about the future. At the same time, city development officials see a major opportunity.

Norfolk City officials confirmed to 10 On Your Side the property, owned by New-York based Thor Equities, is in foreclosure. Economic development officials say its location near the junction of Interstates 64 and 264 is one of the most strategic for redevelopment in all of Hampton Roads.

“It will never be a shopping mall again. It has enormous potential,” Jerry Robertson said Friday when discussing potential ways the site could be re-purposed. Robertson is the board chairman for the Norfolk Economic Development Authority.

Robertson said among the possibilities for the site, the EDA will explore a shopping complex similar to Peninsula Towne Center in Hampton — an interconnected web of smaller strip centers connected by sidewalks and shrubbed parking lots.

Longtime customers and merchants say the mall was much more than just a place to shop.

Brett Hewitt is in a partnership that owns two mall businesses, the African Art Store and the African Vibes kiosk. He said the mall gave the surrounding community a sense of culture.

“We consider Military Circle Mall our mall,” Hewitt said. “When people of color frequent this area, they always want to know, where is the black mall?”

Mary Howard has shopped at Military Circle and worked at a nearby restaurant for more than thirty years. “There were a lot of shops in there that were mom and pop businesses. They are going to be truly missed,” she said.

The timetable for the mall is uncertain. The city owns the old JCPenney portion of the mall. At 210,000 square feet, the former department store represents about 19 percent of the total property. Development officials say a public-private partnership would be needed for redevelopment, which could take several years.

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