Once thriving mall unoccupied, falling apart - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Once thriving mall unoccupied, falling apart

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BIRMINGHAM - AL - For five years, it's sat empty. Now, a once thriving mall is falling apart. But no one seems motivated to make changes to the old Century Plaza Mall.

 Busted doors and windows are boarded up. There are bricks falling off the side of the building even the bridge going into the old Sears is crumbling.

"It was the place to shop, like Lenox in Atlanta," remembers Doug Yarbrough, president of Crestwood South Neighborhood Association.

But competition from newer malls, like the Riverchase Galleria, then shootings at Century Plaza Mall in the early 2000's drove shoppers away. In 2009, it closed.

There have been ideas to use it as a senior recreation center, a vocational school and a jail. A company was even hired to develop a plan which called for pedestrian friendly shopping and a bridge to what is now Family Leisure. Even though the city and county are in initial stages of talks with multiple developers, the nearby Walmart was the only part of the plan realized.

"I can't figure out why the city doesn't do more," said Yarbrough pointing out the proximity to an interstate and near Over the Mountain communities.

Someone is aware of the condition of the building because someone put up fences and danger signs near the old JCPenney entrance. But a council woman says she hasn't heard from the owner, the Howard Hughes Corporation, in years.    

"There has been some bantering around of some ideas. But until property owners are willing to talk to someone, we're kind of at a stalemate at this point in time," said Councilwoman Kim Rafferty who represents the area around Century Plaza.

The Howard Hughes Corporation acquired the mall after its closing when its previous owner went into bankruptcy. The company released a statement saying in part, "we are moving quickly to remedy the situation. In the mean time, the area is cordoned off to ensure safety, which is always a priority."

Nothing was said about the condition of the rest of the building or the other area where bricks are falling. It's not closed off.

There is a procedure for the City of Birmingham to address dilapidated buildings. Nothing has been done.

The building sits with boarded up windows and doors and graffiti. It's a stark contrast to the newly upgrade and fully occupied Crestwood Festival Center a block away.

"It would be an added plus if the other side of Crestwood gets rejuvenated like Avondale, Lakeview has," said Yarbrough.

The mayor still needs to appoint a city economic and development director. There's hope that person will push howard hughes to make changes.
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