Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Williamsburg Outlet Mall ends 31-year run

Roger and Betty Rupe have been coming from Chesapeake to shop at the Williamsburg Outlet Mall for over 30 years. They came one last time and loaded up the trunk with purchases. (Judith Lowery, Daily Press / December 29, 2013)
By Steve Vaughan, svaughan@vagazette.com The Virginia Gazette 10:12 p.m. EST, December 31, 2013

There's something sad about a dying mall.

As bouncy holiday music echoed off its mostly empty corridors, Williamsburg Outlet Mall quietly closed for good Tuesday.

Most of the stores were already closed, blocked off by descending grates.

The Totes Outlet was empty and a circle of empty display cases marked the former site of a jewelry store. Outside, one of the stores that was still open put up a hand-written sign — "Last Day" — embellished with a frowny face.

Most of the customers observing the last rites said they'd miss the mall, troubled for years from competition from the larger Premium Outlets just down Richmond Road. Soon after Premium Outlets opened, management at Williamsburg Outlet Mall had a problem attracting and retaining tenants. Williamsburg Outlet Mall was built in 1982.

"I will miss it, although I'll go where the new stores are," said a shopper named Chris. "I wouldn't say I shopped here often, maybe once a month."

A group of four older shoppers said they came much more often, and would miss the mall for another reason.

"This was our walking place," one said, noting that one group met at the mall every morning at 7 to walk. Premium Outlets, which is all outside, is less practical for that purpose.

Janet Pederson said she'd miss the convenience of Williamsburg Outlet Mall.

"I live very close to here," she said.

There's new development eyed for the site, but it probably won't meet the needs of the walkers.

Williamsburg Retail Investors LLC has already submitted a plan that calls for razing of the 230,000-square-foot building. In it's place will be a more traditional shopping center, with stores facing outward to the parking lot. The proposed development will be anchored by Harris Teeter supermarket and feature six other buildings on the 18.96-acre site.

The James City County Planning Commission will get its first look at the plan Jan. 18.

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