Inlet Square shopping center just might look a little different next time you step inside.
Renovations to the interior of the mall started last week and are expected to be done by Thanksgiving, according to Chuck Fancher, one of the principals of center owner F+F Development.
Floors, ceilings and signs will soon all look different, but shoppers shouldn't expect to hear banging and crashing while visiting the 20 to 25 retailers there. All the construction is taking place at night while the center is closed.
F+F Development bought the mall last year and announced plans to create an open-air center with an additional 100,000 square feet of retail space by the end of 2008. The renovations will occur in two parts.
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Several tenants left Inlet Square before the renovations started, which means shoppers will have a new slate of stores when the interior renovations are done in November, Fancher said. He declined to give the store names.
About 15 to 20 stores, plus the six anchor tenants, remain, and Fancher said he doesn't think the construction will hurt traffic at the mall.
"In the day, other than seeing evidence of temporary covering on the floor, there's not any construction interruption," he said. "I'm wondering whether the construction will actually create interest and increase the number of people coming to see the center."
Several changes are under way:
Workers are installing new flooring, removing the old tiles and pulling up the benches.
Half of the new roof is done, with the rest to be started in the fall. New ceilings are also planned.
Workers are redoing entrances at both sides of the Kmart, which will change the mall's exterior appearance.
Developers are changing the pink-and-blue tile band around the outside of the center.
New monument signs will replace and add to the existing signage.
Lighting is being added along the edge of the building.
A new fountain has already been installed in the retention pond near Wendy's.
Some of the lines in the parking lot near Books-A-Million have been painted green instead of the traditional white as a test to see what customers think, Fancher said. It's a technique used in California that's more aesthetically friendly, he said.
The next round of renovations will start in 2008. Those include the creation of an open-air courtyard, additional outlying buildings, remodeling of the current food court. Those could take eight or nine months, Fancher said, and will increase the size of Inlet Square from 433,345 square feet to more than 500,000 square feet.
That work won't be as obvious to shoppers, he said. "What's being done now is probably the thing that shoppers will notice the most," Fancher said.
For now, shoppers are going to have to rely on the renderings posted within the mall to get an idea of the appearance of the new center.
"Retailers have been wondering and waiting for an upgrade to the property," Fancher said. "So now we're getting started on it; we're excited."