(Lakeland, TN) After being a vacant eyesore for years, the outlet mall in Lakeland is getting a makeover and bringing business and jobs back to town.
The mall is also Lakeland’s largest retail space and could provide money for the city's school district, if it decides to create one.
Decades ago when the mall was built, it bustled with business, but now just two stores remain.
Lakeland planning director Jim Atkinson says the age of the mall drove stores away, “It's lived its useful life and now it's time for something new and the owner has some wonderful ideas."
A new plan approved by city council Monday means new life for the mall.
The area off I-40 is going to look completely different.
The big building of the old Lakeland Factor Outlet Mall is going to be completely torn down and replaced with several smaller buildings surrounding walk ways, benches, and a park for shoppers.
Most of the parking lot is going to be taken over by those buildings so the developer is building a two-story parking deck for shoppers to use.
The smaller building at the mall will stay up but get a makeover to match the new buildings.
Last summer, voters in Lakeland approved a property and sales tax increase to pay for their own schools.
Atkinson says this project should help generate more money for the schools, “We still rely heavily on sales tax revenue and this is by far the largest single retail site we have in the city so anything that happens here will significantly impact our revenue."
Gilad Development owns the mall now and is funding the renovation.
The goal is to keep the outlet concept and the developer is in talks with possible retailers who will fill the new space.
No tax incentives were given by the city for this project, and there is no set date for groundbreaking.