Mayor Harold Copenhaver toured the tornado-damaged Turtle Creek Mall last week with members of his administration and Mall General Manager Rick Jackson.
Copenhaver saw progress made by mall ownership since the March 28, 2020, storm, but deemed it insufficient considering the almost 10 months that have passed. Consequently, City Code Enforcement Director Michael Tyner issued a letter to the Turtle Creek ownership group, Brookfield Properties of Chicago, declaring the eastern-most damaged portion of the mall a “hazard to the public” and a “nuisance against public health.”
The City issued a 30-day notice for a response in writing containing “a detailed plan of action indicating your intentions to either continue making necessary repairs or raze and remove the structure.”
Citing a demand from the public as he campaigned for election, the new mayor made the mall a top priority, seeking a meeting with Jackson during Copenhaver’s first week in office. Copenhaver was sworn in as mayor Jan. 1.
Copenhaver said he enjoyed an open conversation with Jackson about the mall’s progress, and that the general manager expressed optimism that the west half, from just east of the food court where the former Victoria’s Secret operated to the Target that remains open, is salvageable.
“The rest will have to be razed, and I think that’s a pretty obvious conclusion,” Copenhaver said. “But in the big picture, it’s time for answers, and the people of Jonesboro deserve answers.
“The workers in those stores and in the mall need their jobs, and the City needs the commerce. But we cannot have that destruction sitting dormant in our city, both as a safety hazard and an eyesore, and I appreciate that Mr. Jackson understands that and is working with us.”
The letter states that to raze the damaged property, Brookfield Properties has 60 days to obtain a demolition permit and “begin removal and cleanup activities,” or the issue will be brought before the City Council to determine legal options to raze or repair the facilities.
Copenhaver said he hopes Turtle Creek Mall rebuilds to whatever capacity is possible and that Jonesboro continues to provide key shopping and entertainment opportunities to the city and region.
Jackson eagerly agreed to two requests by the mayor: First, the closed north mall entrance connecting South Matthews Avenue to East Highland will open to traffic as early as the middle of next week. Also, Jackson offered the mall parking lot as a rapid COVID-19 vaccination/testing site, which the mayor saw as an act of dedication by Turtle Creek to the people of Jonesboro and Northeast Arkansas.
That mall was a flop to start with, rent too high unsafe after dark then came Covid, a smart business will not return, they took the insurance money and went to greener pastures.