NEWS & EVENTS
Published on January 04
TRAFFIC IS UP AND RETAILERS ARE KNOCKING AT LAKE SQUARE MALL
LEESBURG – The parking lot is full in the places where people can park without hard hats, the conference room is filled with blueprints and shoppers are bustling in and out of stores at Lake Square Mall.
“The hard work that has been put into this challenge is paying off,” said Meir Benzaken, principal owner of the mall.
The mall is boasting new tenants, and more stores are coming, Benzaken said. The mall, which opened in 1980 and changed hands a few times, is getting more than just paint and a minor a facelift. It is also getting new covered dropoff areas to the entrances facing U.S. Highway 441.
The mall got some help from Leesburg this year when city commissioners voted to award a $500,000 economic development grant for a new façade.
New stores include: Yvonne Marie, Georges Marciano, Things Printed, Top Ten and Soft Step Shoes.
The shoe store is for women who have special footwear needs: everything from diabetes to bunions, said Dr. Anna Maria Chwastiak, whose company, Facci Bella, does marketing for the mall. She is also a podiatrist.
It is also getting some new entertainment venues, including a virtual reality shop called Visualize. Some of the games can include up to eight people. One is called “The Plank,” where the daring can walk the plank on a skyscraper.
“Uniqueness is what we’re trying to do,” Benzaken said.
The mall is building an ice skating rink, laser tag and escape rooms. The ice rink will feature eateries and lights projected on the walls.
The adjoining ntertainment complex already features a bowling alley, video arcade and go-cart track.
“The entertainment we have is good, retail fashion is good. Dining, restaurants are badly needed,” Benzaken said.
Construction on one of the new entryways forced Pichy’s Cuban restaurant to close. Benzaken wants national restaurants to come, including some that will utilize a new outdoor café area.
Trends involving malls have changed nationally.
The anchor space once occupied by J.C. Penney will likely be divided into three or four smaller store spaces, he said.
The average size of stores is 15,000 square feet. The maximum is 30,000, he said.
After paying $23 million for the mall in October 2017, Benzaken was both encouraged and worried.
He was encouraged because the marketing company that surveyed potential mall customers reported that participants were very enthusiastic.
“There was obviously a need here,” he said. But he was worried because when he approached 16 national retailers about opening a location at the mall they were not interested.
“Now, half of them are approaching us,” he said.
He said he cannot talk about merchants who have not yet signed a lease, but he said residents will be pleased in 2019-20.
He can, however, talk about the one that got away.
“We wanted Starbucks,” he said, “but they are building across the street. They like freestanding stores,” he said.
He did land a local coffee shop, however, called OMG Coffee, by the theaters.
He said longstanding tenants are pleased with the efforts so far.
“I felt like they were neglected almost,” he said of Belk and Sears.
One of the tenants noted a long line to see Santa Claus and said, “It’s so good to see the energy and the foot traffic.”
“It’s much better than last year,” he said.