Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bristol Mall Job Lot Closes, Mall Demolition Countdown Begins

October 7, 2007 is the final day for Ocean State Job Lot on its Bristol Centre Mall property.

Shoppers have been picking away this past week at a disheveled interior, finding off-brand nick-nacks slashed down to the ends-of-the-earth prices in their marked-up, multi-colored, multi-history shopping carts (mainly those of retail ghost, Bradlees). A building no longer dons the channel lettering (and let's face it, it will probably be reused on another store they eventually swoop up) that's been up for over a decade, and the sides are laced with graffiti.

End is near, and after an exhausting year, end is here.

Following a long, emblazoned court battle over a year now regarding the fate of Ocean State Job Lot to remain on the North Main Street property, the otherwise lone remaining anchor at the year-plus, locked-up Mall at Bristol Centre has been ordered to close-up shop for good.

Job Lot and The City of Bristol have been fighting for over a year following the City's acquisition of the mall property last year with hopes of continuing the revitalization of the long-troubled site along an otherwise improved North Main Street.

Ocean State Job Lot has two outlets; North Main Street and an inherited an additional site out of the former, original Super Stop & Shop on Farmington Avenue it had acquired in 2003. The Mall property was, at best, a staggering eye-sore along with the rest of a deteriorating Mall which has had a history of halting further forward-motion progress within Bristol as a whole. Job Lot sought to challenge its lease to the City, going head-to-head to retain its property on the mall's awaiting-demolition, post-mortem lot for over a year.

While keeping the ill-fated mall vital long beyond its empty later years, The City wanted Job Lot out so it can further plans of getting North Main Street back on track for revitalization.

Job Lot was what Frank Johnson, chairman of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. called "a final obstacle" in demolishing the mall, which was once predicted to sit vacant for years ensuing court battles between the retailer and The City. The Bristol Press reported that the State Supreme Court has ruled in favor of The City for retailer Ocean State Job Lot to move out upon the City's behest early last month.

On October 8, the site will be largely silent and up for grabs to the highest demolition contractor.

Ensuing the vacation of its mall-side property, the company leaves its other store to hang in the balance. While unconfirmed, Job Lot's Farmington Avenue property in Bristol Plaza had it's lease renewal challenged by plaza owners after reports of not keeping in line with the rest of the plaza. Job Lot, who knew they would eventually lose their North Main Street property, and surviving many court battles with The City, it hoped it could strike a deal to move into the nearby TJ Maxx property on the outskirts of the Bristol Plaza, earlier this year. TJ Maxx, just last Summer, gave their property a renovated treatment after operating for over a decade out of a rotting-away, former, 1960's-crafted D&L department clothier. No such dice?

Activity at the mall this past year has been grim ever since The City locked its doors to the public in early Summer 2006 and continued to negotiate with other reluctant tenants including Center Mall Pizza, which has since successfully relocated across the street. The City has been compliant in working with other remaining businesses once tenant to the mall in relocating to other parts of town. Surviving outparcel tenants including Discount Food Outlet and a long-time McDonald's restaurant, formerly owned by the late Andrew Santacroce, who passed away earlier this year, still have not found new homes.

A forward by The Bristol Press story: Mayor William Stortz reports "the mall will be down", and hopefully begin by mid-December. The City's purchasing agent, Roger Rousseau, estimate the mall be razed completely before Spring 2008, in February. The Mayor hopes to have the project done by January, with most of the work done at the bend of the '07-'08 swing.

Discount Food Outlet and McDonald's, both privately-owned, will not further halt the mall's demolition. City officials have proclaimed Job Lot to be biggest hurdle thus far, as well as those who've put up a ballyhooed and rigorous battle to keep their property the longest. The former movie theater/Sherwin-Williams outparcel beside Job Lot will also not be in the outline at this time.

Still no official word on what will eventually become of the site. As per developments, The Caldor Rainbow will be there.

Thanks to Marc Bramhall for the forwarding the initial details of the Bristol Press story.