It might not be moving ahead by leaps and bounds, but the process to maintain Mayberry Mall in Mount Airy as a key business location is making progress.
This includes a disclosure this week that a contract has been finalized for the purchase of a portion of the shopping center which formerly housed a Kmart store that has been closed for nearly a year.
Surry County Building Codes Administrator Brandon Hawks — who has been closely monitoring the situation due to structural deficiencies at the mall deemed a public health threat — also said negotiations are continuing for the purchase of its remaining space. An exception is the Belk department store building there which is separately owned.
In October, a 60-day period was set aside to allow the present negotiations to play out, which ends on Dec. 5, Hawks said.
The deteriorating condition of the shopping center on U.S. 52-North , which numbered nearly 20 stores hiring about 100 people earlier this year — with some reportedly closing since — has been an ongoing concern for local building codes and elected officials alike.
A leaky roof led to problems in the section formerly occupied by the closed Kmart store — which was condemned last spring — with similar issues occurring elsewhere in the building. Rust damage in its upper portion has created a potential for collapses and there is also a hazard with ceiling tiles deteriorating and falling. Additionally, rain water entering the structure through the faulty roof has been linked to the presence of mold, posing an environmental risk to occupants.
After mall owner Mike Kohan failed to make repairs or put money into an escrow account for that after being confronted by local officials in an Aug. 21 conference call, the situation came to a head in late September.
Hawks then told Mount Airy officials, who have ultimate responsibility for dealing with the problems at the mall, that they had the option of ordering its closure or having the building repaired or demolished at municipal expense. The latter would involve trying to recoup that cost from Kohan, who is based in Great Neck, New York, via a lien against the property
At that same meeting, local Realtor Mark Rogers announced, surprisingly, the mall’s potential sale to an unnamed company based in the Midwest. Rogers said negotiations had been ongoing since February, initially involving the former Kmart space, but later encompassing the remainder of the shopping center.
Hawks, the county building codes official, said this week that with the Kmart portion to change hands soon, the 60-day period was set aside for negotiations to continue for the purchase of the remainder of the mall. He said no harsh actions, such as an order to vacate the premises, will be taken before it expires on Dec. 5.
“I feel a little better about having a buyer who is financially capable of making the necessary repairs,” he said.
At the same time, Hawks added, the mall roof is still exposed to the elements and continuing to cause problems and he would like to see some progress on getting it closed in while the negotiations are taking place.
In the interim, Hawks said Kohan — the present owner — has begun mold abatement inside the building which should rid it of a persistent musty smell.
“I feel better than three months ago,” the building codes official said in regard to recent developments.
“We just need to keep this forward momentum going.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.