Amenities found on North Reserve Street could make their way to Missoula’s south side if the owners of Southgate Mall complete their long-term vision for the property.
Speaking at a Southgate Triangle Neighborhood Council meeting this week, Southgate Mall general manager Tim Winger detailed some of the changes taking place at the shopping center and alluded to some larger plans envisioned for that part of town.
“In the next couple months, there will some great stuff for this side of town that will keep things in our neighborhood instead of having to go out to Reserve,” Winger said. “We’re pretty excited about that.”
Mall managers, along with the owners, continue to keep their vision under wraps when it comes to concrete plans for the shopping center and the surrounding area.
The owners recently purchased additional property south of the mall, including the Val-U Inn and Curley’s Broiler, which comes with a liquor license, Winger said.
The mall has also purchased the property that currently houses Sears. The company announced last month that it would close the Missoula store in June, just as it has done in other cities.
“We have bought a bunch of property, and we have a lot of things in the works as far as redeveloping the center,” Winger said. “The Sears property won’t sit empty for five years. It will be redeveloped very quickly, and we hope what we do is very exciting and continues to make the shopping center relevant.”
With the redevelopment of the former Kmart property on Brooks Street, the south side has gained several new eating options in recent months, with MacKenzie River Pizza Co., Five on Black, Noodles & Co., and Jimmy Johns announcing their intention to open stores.
Winger said the mall’s larger vision also includes additional dinning opportunities. A 2006 redevelopment plan for the area noted room for more housing, retail, dining and office space built to accommodate greater pedestrian use.
“We want to build a sense of place over here, where you’d see a lot of people hanging out on a Friday or Saturday night in the summer on patios and things like there,” Winger said. “We’re working to increase some restaurant scenarios over here, too.”
Work to update and reconfigure the mall is already underway. Winger said Red Robin continues to retool its restaurant, while an expansion project to accommodate the incoming H&M Store is taking place.
A Kids Gap and Baby Gap are expected soon, Winger soon, along with other new tenants.
“We’ll be moving some other tenants around,” Winger said. “We have a bunch of them jumping around because we have another big expansion out of a store within (the mall) happening.”
Winger said the mall has no immediate plans for the Paxson Plaza, adding that the current tenants have ongoing leases. He said rumors of a hotel and a Piñata Factory are false, though a movie theater hasn’t been eliminated from the vision.
The south side was home to two movie theaters not long ago. Both have since closed and one has been torn down.
“We’ve been talking about that for a long time,” Winger said of a theater. “If we were able to put that together, we’d be really, really happy.”
Winger said ownership will continue to work to make the mall relevant by growing its attractions and shopping opportunities.
“The mall doesn’t work if we just have people shop from Missoula,” Winger said. “You have to draw from a big geographic area. To do that, you have to have a good mix of stores that draw like that.”