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SouthPark Mall celebrates 40th anniversary

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On the verge of a major facelift, SouthPark Mall celebrated its 40th anniversary Thursday afternoon.

SouthPark Mall officially opened in Moline on February 27, 1974. Dan Dugan, who worked for Walgreen's mall store at the time, still remembers the day well.

"In my liquor store, we had a grand opening special that was 24 12-ounce cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer for $3.99 a case. We sold a thousand cases," said Dugan.

SouthPark was originally home to three anchor stores -- Montgomery Ward, Petersen Harned Von Maur, and Younkers. Since then, it has expanded twice, adding JC Penney in 1978 and Sears and the food court in 1990.

Over four decades, the mall became a Quad City landmark and second home for regular shoppers like Ellen Lohse.

"My license plate is 'Mall Time.' I've come here for so many years; I used to come pretty much every day and have lunch, and I would sit at the same table at the Food Fair," said Lohse.

But Lohse said she's seen a steady decline over the years, both in the number of retailers and customers.

"Right now I'm just really hoping for the improvements that they're going to do. This has always been such a wonderful place," said Lohse.

Thursday, city leaders, SouthPark managers, mall employees and long-time shoppers remembered the past 40 years over cake, live music, and a ribbon cutting. The celebration, though, was largely focused on the future, as SouthPark's senior property manager promised a "reinvention" of the mall in the months ahead.

"It's tired, and we do need to revamp it. I think the shoppers are going to be excited with all the changes that are coming. Macerich, this is what they do, they do the redevelopment. This isn't new for them. They're going to bring in their expert team to really show what SouthPark has to offer," said property manager Kathy Jurgens.

Mall owner Macerich plans to tear down the food court and former Sears store, build two new, exterior entrances, and add outdoor signage. IDOT has also given preliminary approval for a new entrance to the mall off John Deere Road.

Demolition is expected to begin in April, and construction is already underway inside the mall as stores like Payless Shoes move to new locations. At least 10 other stores will be building brand-new, prototype designs as well.

Long-time shoppers call the plans 'encouraging.'

"We used to love to come out here and eat. They had York Steakhouse, that's way back when. So, I hope they have some good eating places," said Judy Carmichael.

If all goes as planned, the redevelopment will be finished by November 2014.