A major national retailer announced plans this month to close its doors at a Green Country mall.
This time it’s the Dillard’s store at Muskogee’s Arrowhead Mall.
It’s not any secret mall across the country are struggling to keep anchor stores like Dillard’s open.
When city officials in Muskogee saw the writing on the wall two years ago, they put in a plan into motion to make sure their downtown doesn't die if and when the mall does.
”There’s been comments on social media that the mall is vacant already, now you take a huge anchor store and pull it out, so people have a sense of loss,” said Cliff Casteel, Okie Country Radio Host.
Sears pulled out of the mall four years ago and that spurred several discussions about Arrowhead’s future.
“It’s barely hanging on and when you walk through the mall you can tell. We have more mall walkers than just about anything. Mood since the Dillards announcement has probably been a big sense of loss,” said Casteel.
Instead of dragging their feet, city officials partnered with the University of Oklahoma’s Urban Design Studio, which is based out of the Tulsa campus.
“They really are taking a proactive approach. I think one of the big challenges with the mall is it’s just such a large property,” said said Shawn Schaefer, OU Urban Design Studio.
Four teams of graduate students went to work.
”This is what it is right now. It’s just one large parking lot—it’s about the size of three city blocks—and there’s no real connection between the mall and the downtown.” said Schaefer.
After getting input from the community, a winning design was selected.
“If the city did acquire the property back, what they could do with it. They could generate new blocks similar to the blocks downtown instead of just having this big mega parking lot,” said Schaefer.
Instead of letting the mall fade away, the city now has a plan.
“I think that it’s going to challenge all of us to reach deeper into our train of thought beyond what we normally consider in situations like this. I think that developers, community leaders and the community, because the community is going to be the beneficiary or the ones to lose the most,” said Marlon Coleman, Muskogee City Council.
Dillard’s confirmed with 2 Works For You, the Muskogee store plans to close in Spring 2019.
2 Works For You also reached out to JC Penny, the last remaining anchor store and a spokesperson said it does not have any plans to close.
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