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Crabtree Valley Mall owners to put $290 million into redeveloping Sears property

Earlier this year, the owners of Raleigh’s Crabtree Valley Mall said they were beginning to plot a new future for one of the area’s most popular malls, charting a path that would make it less dependent on retail.

It was a move that nearly every traditional shopping mall in the region was also contemplating, as they started shedding big-box retailers that struggled to compete in a changing shopping landscape.

On Tuesday, the 47-year-old mall revealed new details of that plan, saying it planned to ask the city to rezone a portion of its land for a 30-story tower to bring office space and a hotel to its property.

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A rendering designed to show where a 30-story tower would be located at Crabtree Valley Mall. Courtesy of Crabtree Valley Mall.

That rezoning would be targeted for a portion of the mall that was once home to a Sears but is now an empty shell.

Sears had owned its 168,000-square-foot building there as well the 3.3 acres around it — but as the company’s struggles intensified, the mall decided to take back control of the property for nearly $20 million in 2018.

“If you look back at the Sears situation .... and look at their struggles, we wanted to gain control of that property,” Brian Asbill, director of marketing for Crabtree, said earlier this year. “They owned it but we thought taking that leap of faith and taking control was important because it really gives us a blank slate for what comes next for Crabtree.”

Currently, Crabtree could build up to 12 stories on the property, but to go higher it would need to get a rezoning from the city.

To remain financially viable for the long term, the mall said, it needs more dense development and to create other reasons for people to visit.

“You have to give people a reason to come for other reasons than shopping. That is what makes a healthy property,” Asbill said in an earlier interview. “That is simply responding to a changing retail environment.”

Crabtree estimates that 4,500 people work there at any point in the year.

The mall said it estimates the project would cost $290 million and would create more than 1,300 jobs. If it were completed, the mall also estimates that it would have a $208 million economic impact on the city and county.

The rendering of the tower is not necessarily meant to represent the final design for the project, Asbill said in an email.

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Crabtree Valley Mall has remained one of the more popular shopping destinations in Raleigh, despite many shopping malls struggling in recent years. TRAVIS LONG tlong@newsobserver.com@newsobser

Parking and flooding are likely to be a leading concern for the City Council when considering the rezoning request. The state’s Department of Transportation is currently reconfiguring the Glenwood Avenue interchange with the Beltline.

The goal of that traffic project is to relieve congestion by changing the way people drive between the Beltline and the mall, The News & Observer previously reported.

The mall said it would only target redevelopment of the side of the mall farthest away from the interchange while DOT finalizes its plans. The redevelopment would also allow the mall to work with the state and city on how to improve stormwater drainage in the area, the mall said in a release.

What Crabtree is proposing is not too dissimilar to what the Streets at Southpoint are trying to accomplish in Durham.

The two malls are still in positions of strength compared to some of the other malls in the area, and both believe they need to evolve now to avoid a decline in the future.

Brookfield Properties, which owns Southpoint, hasn’t revealed specific plans yet — but as The News & Observer reported last week, it began the process of rezoning the property to allow the construction of 200,000 square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of new retail space, a hotel and up to 750 apartments.

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