As of Tuesday, Lewisville’s Vista Ridge Mall officially has new owners with big plans to turn it around. Those plans include a name change to Music City Mall at Vista Ridge.
The mall was purchased at auction in September. The new owner is Odessa businessman John Bushman’s family-owned Investment Corporation of America. The property becomes ICA’s second mall. ICA owns the Music City Mall in Odessa, a city in the West Texas oil patch with a population similar in size to Lewisville.
Richard Morton is the mall’s new general manager.
Morton said that ICA bought the mall with cash, and will continue to operate it as a mall, working to fill up the vacant spaces with merchants, and bring in more shoppers. The mall is currently 72 percent occupied, with several new stores recently opened or in the process of opening. Morton wants that number to be 100 percent.
The new owners have experience in that area, having turned around their mall in Odessa. “When ICA Properties took that mall over they probably had about a 60 percent vacancy rate and now they’re full,” Morton said. “ICA Properties has a great track record of turning properties around, and that’s the goal for Vista Ridge.”
In a letter to mall tenants Tuesday, Morton told them that Bushman’s plan was to invest heavily in the mall and its tenants. Morton said that he expected to spend $3 to $4 million for improvements and renovations right away. That investment is in addition to the $17.3 million that ICA spent to purchase the mall.
Music City Mall is so named because it will become a live entertainment venue seven days a week. Morton said that weeknights from 6 p.m. to close, and throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday there will be some sort of performance to bring in the crowds.
“We want to turn the mall back into the center of the community, where everybody goes and nobody needs to go anywhere else when we can try to provide them everything they need right their in their backyard,” said Michelle Davis, ICA’s retail leasing manager for the mall in Odessa.
According to Morton, the mall is looking at options for signage changes to come quickly, and more prominently brand the entrances to the mall with the new Music City name. When he spoke to The Lewisville Texan Journal Tuesday, he had plans to meet with the City of Lewisville Wednesday to discuss ideas and get guidance.
Morton said that he would be talking to mall tenants and the Chamber of Commerce to get input and ideas for what the community would like to see in the mall.
“This is the place to be for the community and it’s the place to be for the tenants and the stores,” said Morton.
“They can come to the mall, open up and get some good traffic in there and make a nice profit and meet the needs of the community.”
Music City Mall staff wasted no time Wednesday in kicking off the Christmas season. Morton said the company had brought in an 18-wheeler and another truck full of decorations. Assembly of the Christmas Tree in center court was in process when The Lewisville Texan Journal visited Wednesday.
Assembly of Music City Mall’s Christmas tree was under way Wednesday. (Photo by Steve Southwell)
Two other unique features are planned for the mall as well: a 30- by 60-foot American flag at the top of a 130-foot flagpole on the property close to I-35, and a large marble slab monument containing the Ten Commandments. Morton said that Bushman puts the Ten Commandments monuments on his other properties. The Music City Mall in Odessa has that monument on display inside.
Morton wouldn’t say precisely what would happen to rents for tenants at the mall. “I think what we need to do is evaluate what our current tenants are paying and what it would take to keep them there, and what it will take to attract new tenants,” Morton said. “I don’t think you write anything in stone at this point. I think we need to be flexible — that’s probably the key.”
In addition to Morton, who returns to North Texas after 20 years in Odessa, ICA is bringing in Natalie Boyer as assistant general manager. ICA will keep some of the mall’s existing staff, including leasing manager Saundra David. The mall will also be hiring a local marketing person as well. Legally, the mall will operate as Music City Mall III, Ltd.
Music City Mall at Vista Ridge is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. For now, their website is www.vistaridgemall.com.