MARTINSBURG, W.Va. —The Martinsburg Planning Commission on Wednesday night approved changes to Martinsburg Mall’s concept plan that propose redevelopment of the former Sears location to make way for two free-standing restaurants and new, but smaller, retail spaces.
No one spoke for or against the revisions proposed by Mountain State University Building Co., in a public hearing held in coordination with the planning commission’s review, but mall officials did hear concerns about the project’s potential impact on traffic along Foxcroft Avenue from planning commissioners.
The company, which holds the title to the retail center at 800 Foxcroft Avenue for Mountain State University, still must obtain site plan approval for the project from the planning commission.
Mall and Mountain State officials attending Monday’s meeting reviewed their proposal to demolish about 50 percent of the former Sears store and add two “pads” for free-standing restaurants facing Foxcroft Avenue. Mall officials intend to redevelop 30,625 square foot of the former Sears for retail space and build an open-air courtyard in between the restaurants and the retail space, according to the revised conceptual plan.
The proposed redevelopment would amount to 42,602 square feet of leaseable area in place of the 75,640-square-foot Sears store, according to documents filed with the city. A new location for a proposed 60-foot mall sign was added to the concept plan, as was a new outparcel in the parking lot on the north side of the former Sears store near Walmart.
The loss of Sears last summer had a significant impact on revenues and the proposed redevelopment is part of an effort to maintain the retail center’s value while Mountain State University hopes to sell the property “as soon as reasonably possible,” said MSU assistant general counsel Brentz Thompson.
“They’re holding their head above water — barely,” Thompson said when asked about the mall’s financial standing.
Thompson said it was his understanding that someone is interested in buying the property.
The private, Beckley, W.Va.-based college will cease to exist at year’s end after a regional accrediting body withdrew its general accreditation of the school this summer.
Hours before Wednesday’s meeting, Robert Gardner, the mall’s general manager, said the mall is in discussions with nationally-known tenants, and negotiations are under way with some of them, according to Gardner.
“These aren’t mom and pops,” Gardner said.