That Mall is sick and that Store is dead!

May 9, 2013

Razing For Revival: Mercury Shopping District Reborn From Rubble (Daily Press, August 23, 1999)

Razing For Revival: Mercury Shopping District Reborn From Rubble

1960s Mercury Plaza And Langley Square To Get More-modern Look
August 23, 1999|By FRED TANNENBAUM Daily Press

HAMPTON — Danny Shackelford and Kelly Jones deftly inserted their fingers and tools to fix videocassette recorders at the Langley Square repair shop that they work in off Mercury Boulevard. Outside, an electric saw screeched as it bit into a metal frame.

A little more than two miles west, the Mercury Plaza parking lot was occupied by unlikely vehicles – wrecking machines, including an excavator and pavement shredder. They’ve turned one wing of the old mall into fine rubble.

Langley Square and Mercury Plaza are separate places with different owners but with a common thread: Both 1960s-vintage malls are getting significant upgrades, giving them new lives along Hampton’s retail corridor. City officials said the refurbished malls would bolster the boulevard shopping district.

The work at Langley is having an effect.

“Business has gotten better. People are looking at the mall because of the work and see our signs,” Shackelford said Thursday. He repairs electronics at the Audio-Video Lab at Langley Square. “They used to just drive by.”

Once completed, the two refurbished malls will have a “tremendous impact” on Hampton’s shopping areas. It’s necessary to renovate them to keep them viable, said Kathy Grook, Hampton’s retail- development manager.

“Those centers are critical to our retail tax base,” she said. “We feel it’s very important that these renovations take place.”

The city has a program ready to help mall owners renovate their properties, in part through low- interest loans. The program is awaiting financing.

This summer, Mercury Plaza’s owners razed a building along its west side once occupied by a Farm Fresh grocery and other small shops. The supermarket had been vacant since a fire in 1997. Only a dry cleaners is left standing. Fashion Care Cleaners’ lease extends to December 31, 2000.

Mercury Plaza is owned by Mall Properties Inc. of New York, the owner of Coliseum Mall. Mercury Plaza General Manager Raymond Tripp said the site was being cleared to make it more attractive to a new tenant. Waiting for Farm Fresh fire-insurance claims to be settled has delayed site improvements about two years.

Rebuilding the grocery after the fire would have been expensive. “We thought it was more suitable to tear it down,” Tripp said.

A new tenant is not been signed, but Mall Properties is negotiating with potential occupants, Tripp said.

Eventually, Mall Properties wants to upgrade the exteriors of all Mercury Plaza stores, including Burlington Coat Factory, Circuit City and Home Quarters.

The Burlington store once housed a small mall that Tripp said was thought to be one of the Peninsula’s first.

“That site is a viable retail site and a good location,” Tripp said. “Those are the original structures that have served those neighborhoods well. We would like to come back with a retailer to support the neighborhood that has supported us so long.”

In addition to the Farm Fresh, the demolished building housed a music store and a beauty-supply store.

“We’re eager to renovate it and bring it up to standards,” Tripp said.

Langley Square is getting a complete face lift. A Food Lion supermarket and Family Dollar discount store are scheduled to open this fall.

There, a wooden tunnel leads to Audio-Video Lab’s front door, where Shackelford and Jones worked surrounded by VCRs, televisions and stereo equipment. Holding a soldering iron one minute and a cotton swab the next, Shackelford worked to bring new life to the VCR on his workbench.

The business owned by Bob McLain has seen some tough years, so the recent renovations are welcome. The construction even is attracting more customers, Shackelford said.

The Audio-Video Lab isn’t the only business making a go of it before and during the renovations, which started earlier this year. Ling Nam Asian restaurant, Vito’s Pizza, Fertitta’s Grill, a hair salon, and a coin laundry also remain open.

The new canopy over the sidewalk almost hides the blue-and-red neon “open” signs in many of their windows. Pallets of drywall sit where shoppers someday will stroll.

The mall’s landlord, John Katsias of Virginia Beach, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Jones, the Audio-Video Lab technician, said he was looking forward to sharing the mall with new tenants such as Food Lion.

“It’ll be nice having somewhere else to go for lunch,” he said.

Fred Tannenbaum can be reached at 247-4787 or by e-mail at ftannenbaum@dailypress.com

——

Burlington was shut down and moved to Coliseum Mall in 2003, and effectively killed Coliseum Mall because nobody wants a Burlington in their mall.

After Coliseum Mall was torn down in 2007, Burlington moved back into this EXACT spot (in a new building:

Screen shot 2013-05-09 at 11.38.55 PM

The last time Google maps drove by this site was in 2007, so the new Burlington Coat Factory wasn’t open yet, and the building was just finished.

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