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EDITORIAL: Enid shoppers shortchanged with no mall redevelopment strategy

Heading into the two-year anniversary of new ownership of Oakwood Mall, the situation certainly hasn’t improved.

In 2016, Sb Retail Group Carlsbad LLC's purchase from J. Herzog & Sons Inc. came with the promise of revitalization plans, but they have not materialized.

The mall’s huge footprint along Enid’s vital West Garriott retail corridor is a massive question mark. Thankfully, Dillard’s and JCPenney remain as cornerstone anchors. And we hope the limited retail that remains inside the mall is sustainable.

Rickey Hayes, a Retail Attractions consultant for the city of Enid, has called the corner of Garriott and Oakwood one of the best pieces of real estate in the state of Oklahoma, certainly in Northwest Oklahoma. Residents hunger for better retail shopping opportunities to spend our money in Enid and wonder why the mall doesn’t improve.

Sb Retail Group’s lack of investment in the venue, unsuccessful solicitation for new tenants and absence of improvements to the property have been disappointing and underwhelming to say the least.

Brent Kisling, Enid Regional Development Alliance executive director, said that’s because Sb Retail Group’s goals don’t align with Enid’s.

"They're not typically retail investors, they're more commercial property investors, and that property (Oakwood Mall) actually makes money for the owners," he said. "It's not a lot of money, but if you were looking to invest capital and get a small return on that capital, they get that now."

"That's good for them, it's not great for us as a community," he said, noting their lack of effort in revitalizing the mall is leaving potential sales tax dollars on the table.

Some will look backward and say it’s the city’s fault for giving large financial incentives to retailers such as Academy Sports & Outdoors or the T.J. Maxx development to locate in Enid even though the retailers chose locations across from Oakwood Mall.

However, the city previously tried to work first with Oakwood Mall and potential new owners and developers and offered even bigger financial incentives for mall redevelopment. For whatever reasons, those multiple attempts were not successful.

Others will blame various mall owners or former mall stores that have moved out of the mall but stayed in Enid.

Some will point to Amazon’s effect on brick-and-mortar stores and the realities of online retailing.

Sadly, there's still no real consensus on a strategy moving forward to improve the mall. And we don’t see things improving until that strategy changes.
If Sb Retail Group changes its approach and recruits significant new retail development, the city of Enid should be prepared to offer incentives. But as long as Sb Retail Group doesn’t prioritize putting long-term capital into mall redevelopment, Enid shoppers will get shortchanged.
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