OUR VOICE: Mall needs to take steps to remain viable

Farm Forum

We were excited to hear that Shenanigans Sports Bar and Grill was changing locations, concept and name.

Anytime Aberdeen gets a new restaurant, people get excited.

Sure, we are trading Shenanigans for Flatlander Kitchen and Tap House, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a new restaurant. Flatlander will have a new menu, including a Sunday brunch.

It will join the coming Ruby Tuesday and Pounders on Sixth Avenue as brand-new dining options in the area.

But the other side of the coin is Lakewood Mall. Shenanigans is the latest business to leave the mall, following Chapter 1 Book Center, Taco John’s, Payless Shoes, Foot Locker . . .

Those businesses had all been in the mall for more than two decades each. That’s more than 80 years of mall experience between them.

The health of the mall is vital to Aberdeen’s booming east side. We want to see Lakewood Mall succeed.

The footprint is one of the largest, if not the largest, retail space in town. But so many spaces are sitting empty now. That is just too important a location to not be used to full potential.

The mall is the gateway to the city. Those coming in from Interstate 29 on Highway 12 are going to see our mall. What message are they getting, even without stepping foot inside? Fewer cars in the parking lot. Restaurants that don’t look open. No inviting store signs on the street saying, “come on in!”

There are five hotels around the mall — one of those is not quite a few months old — and a hospital. That’s a sizable audience that relies on nearby restaurants, a movie theater and a mall to be within walking distance to be the entertainment for the night.

It is critical that the mall be able to offer the range of experiences people expect. And that big Shenanigans space is too visible a spot not to be filled.

It’s not that the mall is in a bad area. Ruby Tuesday has decided to be there — but just in front of the mall. Dunham’s Sporting Goods landed there, too — but they are only adjacent to Lakewood Mall, but in a separate building not owned by the mall.

And Flatlander has chosen to anchor the new Paramount Retail Center on Eighth Avenue Northwest beginning in early September.

The mall’s owners, Rubloff Development Group of Rockford, Ill., are in a tough spot. The mall needs investment — repairing the much-maligned parking lot, landscaping to comply with a city ordinance — but it is hard to raise capital when the mall is limping along as it is.

Let’s not forget the great stores still in the mall: Herberger’s, JC Penney, Sears, Shoe Science, Maurice’s and many more.

Those businesses, and the local residents who work and shop there, are the ones who need to be supported. We want to see them thrive right there at the mall.

— American News editorial board