Mall debate: cost savings for taxpayers or waste of money?

Mall debate: cost savings for taxpayers or waste of money?

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - On Tuesday WBTV published a story about the presentation made at Monday's Rowan County Commission meeting regarding the options available for the use of the old Salisbury Mall, now named the West End Plaza.

While Commission Chairman Greg Edds seemed to voice support for the idea of keeping the mall and using it to solve the county's space needs issue, local attorney Todd Paris isn't convinced.

Paris is very active politically and was involved in the formation of the La Resistance movement that some say was influential in recent elections, especially that of the Rowan County Commission.

Paris attended the meeting and was initially upset that the presentation wasn't available to citizens prior to the meeting.

The mall itself is mostly just empty stores, with a few exceptions like Thelma's, and some retail stores.

"The mall has made a big transition over the past couple of years," said Arnold Stoner at GQ Menswear.

He says business isn't bad, but admits something has to be done soon in what used to be the Salisbury Mall.

To deal with space needs issues in the county, county leaders are weighing two proposals by architects. One to use the mall for several county agencies, comes with a $27 million price tag, the other, to do away with the mall and build new buildings would cost much more according to the county commission chairman.

"We have a couple of immediate needs, but they're not large" Chairman Greg Edds told WBTV. "But in five years that need explodes, so the cost of providing those needs jumps to $41 million if we have to build those facilities outside of the cheap space that is provided by the mall."

Paris isn't buying it at either price.

"It's amazing that they came up with the idea of using a straw man," Paris told WBTV. "It's some sort of bigger more expensive project to make $27 million look like it was a bargain."

There have been questions about how much it would cost to upfit and repair the 30 year old mall, and there too, there is disagreement.

"We had structural engineers look at it, it's in good shape. It doesn't have any surprises that a thirty year old structure would be but basically steel girders with concrete, brick on top of it, so it's in good shape," Edds added.

"Greg's idea has always been to keep the mall, my question is that it's 30 some years old, it's reached the end of its life expectancy, we think we'd be better off tearing it down and building a right size DSS building," Paris said.

Back at GQ, Arnold Stoner hopes the mall can be saved.  He says if county agencies moved in, it would help his business.

"If there's enough foot traffic going end to end, people are going to come in and say see what they have to offer or what do they have to offer, which generally brings on customers," Stoner added.

Edds and Paris did share common ground that the presentation will have to be studied and that it will be a while before any action is considered.

"The commissioners want some time to really digest 135 pages, and then from that we'll pick and choose what we like to do next, it certainly won't be all of option A or all of option B, it's going to be some of both," Edds said. "Once we roll out what we really see as the total vision for that facility then we will have a master roll out probably at the facility itself."

"It's kind of early, I think a lot of it is going to come down the county commission explaining how this will affect their taxes," Paris added.

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