The section of Mayberry Mall which formerly housed Kmart has been declared unsafe by Surry County building inspection officials due to recent water damage.
And others at the mall said Wednesday that structural problems at the Kmart site are mirrored elsewhere at the shopping center located on North Andy Griffith Parkway.
“We have six leaks in the building,” said the manager of one business there which will be relocating in June because of the situation. That individual, who did not want her name to be published, said water buckets had to be placed underneath leaks and emptied constantly during recent heavy rains.
However, the New York-based owner of the mall said Wednesday afternoon that the problems — which he confirmed stemmed from the weather — are being addressed.
“We’re definitely taking care of that,” said Mike Kohan of Mayberry Mall Realty Management in Great Neck, New York, which is associated with another entity known as Kohan Retail Investment Group.
The darkened entrance of the old Kmart facility, once a thriving location where retail operations ceased around the first of this year, is now posted with a condemnation notice stating conditions that make it appear to be “especially dangerous to human life.”
Those conditions, which are related to structural deficiencies with the roof, include water intrusion and ceiling tile collapses, according to the county building inspection notice warning the public which was posted in late April. Other problems involve water in light fixtures and electrical components.
Electrical service to the old Kmart store has had to be disconnected due to the damage, with a county inspector noting that approval for utility connections will not be granted until repairs have occurred and final inspections made. A monitor for the sprinkler system there reportedly has been wired to another location to provide protection in case of a fire.
Surry County Building Codes Administrator Brandon Hawks said Wednesday that the condemnation action by his department reflects its mission of public safety.
He said efforts are under way by the department to mitigate the situation.
“We’re going to make contact with the owner and there will be some hearings,” Hawks said, with “remediation” activities also to be part of that process. “I don’t have a time frame at the moment.”
In September, it was announced that the Mount Airy Kmart would close in mid-December along with 63 other stores in the retail chain.
Kohan, the owner of Mayberry Mall — except for the space containing Belk which is owned by that department store chain — said then that efforts would be mounted to find another tenant for the Kmart space.
Meanwhile, Mayberry Mall Realty Management has unpaid county property taxes of $22,700, while its taxes to Mount Airy are “paid in full,” a city government spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Plans for repairs
While it’s not possible to enter the inside of the former Kmart at the northernmost end of Mayberry Mall, a number of ceiling tiles are missing from the area just outside the front entrance and others are noticeably discolored from water damage.
Many ceiling tiles also are missing elsewhere in the mall, including one spot where the blue sky could be seen Wednesday by someone standing on the floor inside. A musty smell also permeated the area.
Kohan, the mall owner, while blaming the problems on the recent rains, said repairs are being initiated by his firm.
“The insurance company is working very diligently right now,” he added Wednesday afternoon.
“I think in two weeks we should be able to replace the roof,” said Kohan, whose firm owns about 17 shopping malls scattered throughout the country.
He said the repairs will be costly, include about $250,000 just to remove the ceiling tiles, but would result in a much-improved facility.
“I think it’s going to be very good for the town.”
This would be welcome news to Ruby Stevens, a resident of the Slate Mountain vicinity who paused Wednesday to read the condemnation notice at the old Kmart location. A retiree from Renfro Corp. who also has worked part-time at Kmart, Stevens said she has long enjoyed shopping at the mall.
“I like all the stores — I’d hate for it to be closed, personally.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.