Peachtree Mall filling its food court, Parisian space still empty

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 2, 2013 

Another Christmas holiday season is coming and going without the former Parisian department store space being redeveloped at Peachtree Mall in Columbus.

But the indoor shopping center will soon round out its food court offerings with a Charleys Philly Steaks outlet, leaving a couple of other vacant storefronts to fill in the wing anchored by JCPenney.

This being the gift-giving season, Peachtree general manager Chris McCoy said turning the 86,700 square feet of space once inhabited by the now-closed Parisian chain until 2007 remains on his wish list.

"I definitely want to see something done. We should see some movement on that hopefully in the near future," said McCoy, who declined to discuss any potential negotiations between the mall's owner, Chicago-based General Growth Properties, and Little Rock, Ark.-based Dillard's.

It was in early 2007 that Dillard's purchased the vacant retail space from Charlotte, N.C.-based Belk Inc., paying nearly $4.4 million. Belk had bought the 40-store Parisian chain the year before, then decided to close a dozen stores, including the Peachtree Mall location that had been open since 1985.

Reached Monday by phone, Dillard's spokeswoman Julie Johnson Bull said she had no news on the empty Columbus property the retailer bought just prior to the Great Recession.

"We don't comment on negotiations, so I wouldn't be able to shed any light on that at all until we have an announcement or something," she said.

Dillard's also owns its existing 214,000 square feet of space at Peachtree, which is spread over two levels. It is the largest anchor in the center, followed by Macy's at 139,000 square feet and JCPenney at 83,000 square feet.

"We are building two stores in 2014 and three in 2015, but Columbus, Ga., is not one of those locations," said Johnson Bull of the 299-store chain's future construction plans. Dillard's has closed two stores so far this year, she said.

Mall management in the past has expressed a desire to purchase the vacant space -- which sits dead in the middle of the shopping center, not far from the food court -- and transform it into multiple retail and food offerings, including the possibility of restaurants not already in the market.

For now, however, the food court, a couple of full-service restaurants, and a sprinkling of eateries throughout the mall will have to suffice.

A Ruby Tuesday is inside the mall, while a stand-alone Johnny Carino's serves Italian fare on the Macy's side of the Manchester Expressway property. The former Picadilly's food space on the back side of the mall remains available. An Auntie Anne's pretzel shop and a Cinnabon outlet are located away from the food court.

The food court itself includes A&D Buffalo's, Classic Cookie, Cajun Max, Chick-fil-A, Googly Frozen Yogurt Cafe, Mandarin Express, Sarku Japan, Sbarro and Subway, with McCoy saying he hopes to have Charleys Philly Steaks open by Christmas.

However, Jesus Urdaneta, chief operating officer with Miami-based Elbardi International Management, the Charleys franchisee opening the mall location, said it very well could be early January before that occurs.

But when the outlet does make its debut, Urdaneta said local consumers should like what they taste.

"They have delicious, hot, made-to-order sandwiches and our cheese and bacon fries. The signature lemonade is something truly unique for our brand," he said. "We're constantly innovating in the Philly cheese steak world."

Elbardi International is not the Charleys Philly Steaks operator at Fort Benning, where there are three locations that recently had their names changed from Charley's Grilled Subs. Urdaneta said those are part of the government's exchange program. Elbardi does have locations in Georgia, the Carolinas and on the West Coast.

Columbus, Ohio-based Gosh Enterprises Inc., which operates and is the franchisor of the Charleys chain, has 514 locations in 47 states and U.S. territories, as well as 20 countries.

Peachtree Mall is approaching its 40th anniversary, having opened for business in 1975. The 815,000-square-foot center has seen various remodeling and expansion projects through the years. General Growth Properties, on its website, has a half-dozen of its 123 regional malls currently listed for improvements, including Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, Ala. But none with the name Columbus.

"A successful redevelopment, renovation and/or expansion strategy will increase both traffic and sales at the respective centers," the company's site says. "Development projects span from small to large, many times including new anchor tenants, entertainment additions and the signing of specialty retailers not currently in place in the competitive environment."

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