Clayton County Schools buys former Sears store at Southlake Mall

Clayton County Schools on Friday announced the district has bought the former Sears store at Southlake Mall.
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Clayton County Schools on Friday announced the district has bought the former Sears store at Southlake Mall.

Credit: Kent D. Johnson / kdjohnson@ajc.com

Credit: Kent D. Johnson / kdjohnson@ajc.com

Clayton County Schools will soon have a place to hold graduation ceremonies indoors.

The district has closed on the former Sears store at Southlake Mall for $4.4 million and plans to turn it into a convention center and arena with 7,000-plus seats, the school system announced Friday.

“The decision to move in this direction has brought to a close a discussion that began several years ago,” Clayton Schools Superintendent Morcease Beasley in a statement announcing the purchase. “This arena will allow us to celebrate our seniors with indoor graduation ceremonies in this county. The total facility will also be available for other community and regional events.”

Clayton Schools is not the first non-traditional tenant of Southlake. Call center Chime Solutions occupies what was once a JCPenney store at the mall while the Morrow Conference and Event Center replaced an older Macy’s store in the building. (Cincinnati-based Macy’s maintains a different location in the mall.)

The Sears store at Southlake was one of more than five dozen stores Sears announced it would close in 2018.

The school system announced it had purchased the building after a board meeting this past August, but did not provide many details. It closed on the property, which covers about 15 acres, on Oct. 22.

Leaders said the district will spend $50 million renovating the building.

“I am truly looking forward to honoring our graduating seniors indoors at a facility in Clayton County with sufficient seating and parking to support everyone who wishes to attend,” Clayton Board of Education chairwoman Jessie Goree said.

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