The Sears store at Gwinnett Place is closing — and that may actually be a good thing for the eventual redevelopment of the once-proud mall.
The longtime Gwinnett Place location was among dozens of “non-profitable” stores named Thursday in the latest round of cuts for Sears and sister company K-Mart. Two other metro Atlanta stores were also included.
FLASHBACK PHOTOS: Gwinnett Place mall through the years
All of the condemned outlets are scheduled to close their doors in early September. The Gwinnett Place closure will leave the long-struggling mall with just one traditional anchor store (Macy’s) and two newer additions (MegaMart and Beauty Master).
The Sears closure, though, could be a welcome development for Gwinnett County officials who are hungry for the mall to undergo a major facelift — and who have made no bones about their dismay regarding the inaction of the current ownership group, Moonbeam Capital Investments.
“If Sears sells this store, then it could be another step toward meaningful redevelopment of the entire area,” Gwinnett Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash said. “We look forward to seeing how things proceed.”
Gwinnett Place mall in Duluth has struggled to attract shoppers as it watched many retailers pull out of the center. Talk of a major redevelopment by owner Moonbeam Capital Investments have yet to turn into concrete plans. MATT KEMPNER / AJC
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sears owns its Gwinnett Place building, the land underneath and a chunk of the surrounding parking lot. If the corporation were to sell all that off after closing up shop, it could remove a significant hurdle for anyone — Moonbeam or otherwise — wanting to redevelop the entire mall property.
Gwinnett County itself has made clear its readiness to be involved in the mall’s redevelopment, in one capacity or another. It has also shown a recent willingness to purchase real estate to help spur private development in key parts of the county.
Recent media coverage has highlighted Sears’ sale of several other properties, but it was not clear if the company intends to sell its Gwinnett Place building. Asked via email about that possibility, a Sears Holdings spokesperson replied with a list of store closings and said that neither the “number of associates impacted” nor any further information was available.
Joe Allen, the director of the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District, said he was “surprised that [Sears] location remained open for as long as it did.”
“I am not certain how many more dominoes will have to fall until we reach a tipping point when things begin to change for the better, and we finally witness the transformation of that property,” he said, an apparent reference to Moonbeam.
Moonbeam, which owns dozens of other properties across the country, bought Gwinnett Place in late 2013. In early 2017, the company floated plans for a grand mall makeover, one that included demolishing one department store to build apartments and converting two other wings into office space.
Formal plans were not submitted to the county on the original timeline Moonbeam presented, and they have not been since.
At a forum last summer, Nick Masino, Gwinnett County’s top economic recruiter, openly called for Moonbeam to be replaced, saying they “talk and talk and do nothing.” Allen later backed up Masino’s assessment, though there’s no way for county officials to force Moonbeam out.
Moonbeam has stuck to its guns, saying it still plans to redevelop the property. Representatives from the company did not immediately respond to Sears-related inquiries sent late Thursday afternoon.