BHC 03142017 Bristol Mall 05

Empty store fronts at the Bristol Mall.

Bones, some joints and space: The Bristol Mall is less a vibrant shopping hub and more a skeleton of infrastructure idling behind a Kroger.

The Bristol Mall has been in slow decline for some time, but this is not indicative of a compromised local retail climate. Most large retailers reported dormant or decreasing sales figures over the past few years. Even high-end department stores — for example Neiman Marcus — have felt the pinch and dabbled in offering more sales and coupons to continue to draw a crowd.

So is the Bristol Mall becoming what’s called “retail history”?, a site dedicated to narrating the life and death of multi-space buildings nationwide, identifies itself as a retail history compilation. The “Dead Mall Stories” link presents a depressingly long list of malls that have passed on, keeping those centers’ memories alive in text form and a possible corresponding photo.

We can’t let our mall become one of those clickable stories, one that’s succumbed to a fate necessitating its whereabouts be listed on a site called “dead malls.”

It’s been over a year since the current owner, Sunstar Keshav LLC, took over. We frankly need a concrete plan, and the best way to keep the project moving is to keep putting pressure on the need for answers and visibility on its progress, if any.

The company noted its ongoing discussion of different types of tenants in March. Very little was disclosed about its projections or goals, however.

With the mall’s 40-plus year history in the city, citizens do feel they’re invested in its livelihood and hence entitled to some answers. And it’s clear that residents want to see the space prosper, based on readers’ feedback on the Herald Courier’s last related story (“Bristol Mall shops for alternatives”).

And there’s no shortage of ideas for a new direction. Some cities looking to add muscles to their shopping skeletons are rebuilding them as open air shopping centers. Others are using more un-conventional tenants to fill those spaces. Grocers, doctors’ offices and even high schools have all been mentioned in those conversations.

With the continued growth of The Pinnacle and possible tax credit qualifications, the missed chances for business stand as a constant reminder for action. What’s going on with the area’s only mall? It’s time we have something more logistical and less abstract.

Let’s exemplify the Fort Henry Mall, now called the Kingsport Town Center, in Kingsport. Like the Bristol Mall, it experienced a crumbling retail sphere and was bought by a property development company last June. In less than a year into ownership, they’ve announced major exterior and interior renovations and new management and upgrades in the movie theater. With an estimated completion set for this fall, their vigorous schedule evinces a lot of promise for the center.

We’d like to see that sort of energy put into our mall. It’s time to put some meat on these bones.

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