Moline and SouthPark Mall leaders officially kicked off a major redevelopment of the 40-year-old shopping center Thursday, April 24, 2014.
The next week, crews were to begin to demolish the former Sears department store and food court. The groundbreaking ceremony was a chance for many shoppers to say a bittersweet goodbye.
"I'm very sad. I worked there for many years, and I'm very disappointed," said former Sears employee Dorthy Staub.
Even Staub, though, admits that SouthPark is looking better already, as stores like Payless, Journey's and Bath and Body Works move to new, more centralized locations within the mall.
"It's a good idea. It was getting kind of old," said Staub. "It needed it."
Exterior updates planned for the mall include new entrances, landscaping and directional signs. Inside, plans call for upgraded restrooms, enhanced ambient lighting, new carpeted areas, painting, and an enlarged common area with seating and wi-fi capabilities.
"You're going to see a right-sized mall, and it will just be a much improved center with new amenities inside, a new, fresh look... and everything will just be sparkling new again," said Kathy Jurgens, property manager at SouthPark Mall.
Last month, SouthPark celebrated its 40th anniversary. Many shoppers, though, said it's become outdated and empty in recent years, and they hope this overhaul will return the mall to its former glory.
"I hope to see a lot more opportunities with the stores, and a lot more people coming here, because right now, a lot of people go to NorthPark, and it's not very popular," said shopper Savannah Troester.
That's exactly what city and SouthPark leaders hope to fix, too.
"I think once the center starts to make its transformation, we're going to hopefully see some of those new stores come and really want to take an interest in SouthPark Mall," said Jurgens.
All of the current mall stores will remain open through the construction. Phase I of the work is expected to wrap up in November
Phase II, which involves building an on/off ramp with access to John Deere Expressway, is scheduled to start in 2015.