Proposed legislation could change the future of South Carolina’s struggling malls

VIDEO: Proposed legislation could change the future of South Carolina’s struggling malls

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - One state lawmaker has proposed legislation to revitalize malls across South Carolina into spaces that better serve their surrounding communities.

The bill, pre-filed by Representative Marvin Pendarvis, would allow for certain tax credits for rehabilitating malls into mixed-use, mixed-income spaces geared towards pedestrian traffic.

Many malls across the country have seen a decline in shoppers over the years because of a rise in online sales. The trend has left retail centers like the Citadel Mall with plenty of empty space, but Pendarvis believes there’s a future for malls if they are repurposed to serve their surrounding communities.

“You just don’t see people flocking to malls as they once did, and Citadel Mall just fell victim to that unfortunately,” Pendarvis said. “I think as part of the revitalization of West Ashley, just taking that as an example, this legislation will help enhance it. It will provide the people who are coming into that area some incentives to be able to draw the kind of investment that’s really going to be a boom to that local community. “

There’s already a proposed plan to turn the Citadel Mall into a hub of resources for West Ashley.

Charleston City Council is considering rezoning the structure into a space for apartments, office space, an assisted living facility, a hotel, a sports arena, shopping and more.

This comes as the Medical University of South Carolina is already in the midst of construction of a medical complex at the property.

“Citadel Mall is just an example for us here in the Lowcountry, but you’ve got examples in Columbia. You’ve got examples in the Upstate of long-standing malls that have been around for decades, but they have not seen the kind of activity that they once did,” Pendarvis said.

The area’s new name would be the “Epic Center,” and Pendarvis believes it’s an idea that can be translated to other struggling malls in the state.

“There’s real potential. There’s a reason why this legislation has gotten the traction that it has, and I think if we are very intentional about how we grow and we in the General Assembly are very cognizant of what’s going on in our local municipalities, then we will pass this and this will be another tool in our tool box to do what we need to do for the people of South Carolina,” Pendarvis said. “This is a way for us to draw the people there, to draw the commerce there that’s going to be mutually beneficial, not only for the businesses but more importantly for the people in these communities.”

Part of the plan is to make malls and their surrounding infrastructure more pedestrian friendly.

“I see it be a place that has access to bike lanes and sidewalks for people to commute from their neighborhoods to the mall to the businesses around them,” Pendarvis said “I see it having availability of affordable housing, mixed-use housing. That people are able to commute to work and not have to worry about spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent. I see it having some businesses that are able to locate there that see the potential in the neighborhoods and the people that continue to be there and relocate there.”

If approved, proposed changes at the Citadel Mall are expected to occur gradually over the 20 years or more.

Pendarvis’s bill has been referred to the committee on ways and means and will be considered when the next legislative session begins in January.

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