Brandon's Commentary

User submitted July 21, 2008

The Rock Hill Galleria is nothing more but a regional shopping mall located in a fast growing part of a fast growing suburb of a fast growing metropolitan city that is Charlotte, NC. The mall has had a vibrant history and it’s unclear what will happen to it in the future. For those of you who visit occasionally, let me tell you a story about a mall that just had its heyday and is on its way to a slow and painless death.

The mall opened in 1991 near the intersection of Interstate 77 and Dave Lyle Boulevard in the eastern part of Rock Hill. At that time, the area was mostly rural with absolutely no retail around it whatsoever. The mall opened with five anchors; Belk, J. C. Penney, Phar-Mor, Sears, and Wal-Mart. Adjacent to the mall was a small eight screen cinema that opened around the same time as the mall. Its first year of operation was just like any normal operating scenario of a mall; near complete occupancy and tremendous foot traffic. While the mall blossomed, additional retail outlets moved to the area and opened up shop along Dave Lyle Blvd. As the first year came to a close, Phar-Mor went under and was replaced a few years later by Brendle’s, an Elkin, NC based chain of catalog showrooms, which eventually went under. By the dawn of the 21st century, the mall would suffer a major blow to its dominance.

In 2000, Manchester Village, a large outdoor shopping center along both sides of Dave Lyle Blvd. opened on the other side of Interstate 77 containing Target, T. J. Maxx, Pier 1, and later Best Buy. At that same time Consolidated Theatres (now a part of Regal Entertainment Group) opened a 12-screen, now 14-screen cinema in the T. J. Maxx/Pier 1 portion of the shopping center, which caused the smaller Galleria Cinemas (ironically at that time owned by Regal) to close down. This caused the mall to slowly lose some of its foot traffic, as people were going next door to Manchester or shoot up interstate 77 to the larger Carolina Place in Pineville. In addition, Wal-Mart announced that it was expanding into a Super Wal-Mart and blocked off the mall entrance in order to complete the expansion, thus causing shoppers wanting to get from Wal-Mart to the mall and vice versa to use the outside entrance next to Wal-Mart, which lead to a steep decline in foot traffic. After years of decline, the mall would receive a ray of new hope, and a chance of redemption.

In 2004, General Growth Properties (the owner of Carolina Place) acquired management of the mall after it was purchased by legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach and his real estate company, and announced a multi-million dollar renovation that included giving the mall a facelift and a new coat of interior paint. Although the first part of the renovations, which included removing the fountain in the center of the food court and repainting the green ceiling a modest brown color, were completed, the second part, which included removing the dome over the center court and construction of a new entrance, never came to fruition. At that same time, Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear opened up in the Phar-Mor/Brendle’s anchor and boosted foot traffic. A few years earlier, Goody’s Family Clothing opened a store on a vacant lot attached to the back of the mall. This also was met with a slight increase of foot traffic. As the growth continued, several external factors would cause the Galleria to go into a decline.

In 2006, Developer Ralph Norman, a local businessman whose father Warren was the “brains” behind the Galleria, announced plans to open a shopping center next to Wal-Mart that contained Kohl’s and Hobby Lobby. When it opened the following spring, it caused the mall to loose additional foot traffic. Although openings of new stores like AE, Aeropostale, Finish Line, and Rue 21 caused foot traffic to briefly soar, it eventually tapered off as time passed. That same year, Jones Lang LaSalle acquired management of the mall from General Growth and brought with it more closures, as the mall was near complete occupancy when Jones Lang LaSalle took over management, but it was successful after Staubach bought it and boosted the occupancy rate to near 50% to approximately 85%. However, with the dominance of the larger Carolina Place, SouthPark, and Northlake Malls in Charlotte, not to mention Concord Mills, the place was spiraling downhill, until I found out something that would cause the mall to go into a frenzy.

I received a call from a friend in February of 2008 telling me that Goody’s was closing the store and liquidating everything to the bare walls. When I walked in there, I saw that the sales floor was reduced to nothing more but the front center of the store and was informed by an employee that they were closing due to lack of foot traffic, which didn’t surprise me at all.

As of today, the mall is still at near complete occupancy, although it has 3/4s of the foot traffic it had during the dominating 1990s. There had been recent rumors going around that there will soon be a larger shopping mall built on an old industrial site on Cherry Rd. near the Catawba River, and that Mr. Staubach will sell the mall to a developer and bulldoze it, or that he will asked for an expansion of the mall to help it better compete with the super-regional malls in Charlotte. Until these rumors are confirmed or denied, I believe that the Rock Hill Galleria still has some life left in it, and it will continue to breathe easy for a while.

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