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This longtime Lakeshore Mall anchor says it’s staying put despite new mall ownership
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Shoppers cross the Lakeshore Mall parking lot Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022, to enter Belk. Recently Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville was sold for $15 million, but the longtime mall's future isn’t known yet. - photo by Scott Rogers

At least one longtime Lakeshore Mall anchor is expecting no impacts from a recent ownership change at Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville.

Atlanta-based Branch Lakeshore Associates LP’s $15 million purchase of the shopping center at 150 Pearl Nix Parkway, off Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53, “will have no effect on our store,” Belk spokeswoman Jessica Rohlik told The Times in an email.

Further, “Belk has no plans to leave the Lakeshore Mall and looks forward to continuing to welcome customers at that location.”

Rohlik added: “We have always believed in taking care of our customers and the communities they live in, and are proud to serve the Gainesville community.”

Other anchors, including Books-A-Million and Dick’s Sporting Goods, couldn’t be reached for comment. The mall is largely vacant, with stores shuttered and two former anchors, J.C. Penney and Sears, empty.

Belk has been a constant at the mall, surviving economic ups and downs over the years, including the 2007-08 Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.

It held a grand reopening in 2012 after a $1.8 million renovation.

Belk’s Gainesville roots run deeper than Lakeshore Mall, opening as Gallant-Belk in 1934 on the downtown square. Gallant-Belk later moved to Sherwood Plaza shopping center on South Enota Drive, then Lakeshore Mall.

The mall, which opened in 1969 as Lakeshore Plaza, has changed hands several times.

Hall County records show that Michigan-based Stockbridge Lakeshore LLC bought the 49-acre site for $7.1 million in a 2017 auction. The property is valued at $6 million, down from $7.1 million in 2020.

Branch, which bought the property Oct. 27, hasn’t commented on the purchase.

Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, has said the firm is connected to Branch Properties, an Atlanta-based developer “with a retail portfolio.”

Branch is planning Limestone Marketplace, a development off Limestone Parkway featuring a 48,387-square-foot grocery store, three 8,400-square-foot restaurants or retail shops and four outparcels varying in size from 1 acre to 1.75 acres, according to the developer’s website.

Evans said Lakeshore Mall “occupies an incredible site with great potential as a regional commercial center. “

Lakeshore Mall was one of three areas singled out by Gainesville as ripe for redevelopment in an update earlier this year of its comprehensive plan.

The mall “has struggled to find its place in the ever-changing retail landscape,” according to the 356-page document approved June 7.

The plan envisions shifting the mall into a mixed-use town center with potential for townhomes, multi-family residences, new commercial buildings and greenway connectivity with Longwood Park. The plan would emphasize commercial buildings pushed closer to Pearl Nix Parkway and Ga. 53, with parking in the rear.

Allison Sinyard of Atlanta-based TSW Architects, which worked with Gainesville on the plan update, said earlier this year, “This was the top area cited by all our stakeholders as the area that they felt needed a lot of attention.”