Greendale - Southridge Mall has completed the most extensive improvements in its 42-year history, but the changes aren't over yet.
While ceremonies were held to mark completion of food court renovation and improvements to other common areas, plans were announced for the addition of several other retailers and restaurants.
Old Navy, which had closed its Southridge store last spring, will return to the mall in a smaller, 12,860-square-foot store on the lower level near Macy's.
Women's fashion retailer Ann Taylor Loft will open an upper level store near the food court.
And three new restaurants are also scheduled to open. Buca di Beppo, a casual-dining Italian restaurant, will be located at the southwest mall entrance near Macy's, while LongHorn Steakhouse and Panda Express restaurants are under construction in an outlot where a former Leath Furniture store had been located.
That's on top of changes earlier this year, when Macy's opened its second Milwaukee-area store at Southridge, Boston Store completed a remodeling project, and several smaller retailers opened new stores, or expanded or relocated their stores at the mall.
'Malls need to upgrade and renovate to stay competitive and fresh,' said Southridge general manager Mary Mokwa. 'Customers enjoy shopping in a fresh, updated environment.' In earlier years, 'there have been slight facelifts, but none of this scale.'
A village investment
Greendale established tax increment financing districts to pay part of the cost of the mall improvements and Boston Store renovation.
'They have been tremendous partners,' Mokwa said of village officials. 'They've been great to work with - we couldn't have asked for more support. Renovation of Southridge has been a catalyst for rejuvenation of the whole 76th St. corridor.'
Village Manager Todd Michaels sounded a similar note.
'You hope there's a spillover factor when you invest in a TIF, and that's what has happened,' Michaels said.
Both he and Mokwa cited construction of a Walmart store on the former Bowling Congress site as an example.
Before the renovation, Southridge 'was perceived as in decline and underperforming,' Michaels said, while the Bowling Congress and Leath Furniture buildings were vacant, and Borders bookstore closed.
Now, Michaels added, 'we've gotten the Bowling Congress site redeveloped, and we've got a major tenant coming to the Borders building in the spring,' alluding to plans for a Designer Shoe Warehouse store at that location.
Mokwa said construction activity combined with the opening of new stores and restaurants has meant more jobs in the area. She estimated Macy's alone provided 160 new jobs.
Looking ahead, Mokwa said Indianapolis-based Simon Malls, which acquired Southridge five years ago, wants to make it 'the destination mall in this area.' With that goal in mind, she said Southridge hopes to attract new shoppers, and to get current shoppers to visit more frequently.
Mokwa said that some newer residents in fast-growing areas like Oak Creek, Franklin, Muskego and western Racine County 'might have driven by us in the past.' But since the addition of new stores and the facelift of common areas, 'we're seeing customers every day who haven't been here in a while. They've come back and like what they see.'