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Lakeshore Mall renovations aim to attract more retailers, customers
Work is underway on the new Dick’s Sporting Goods store at Lakeshore Mall, but there’s still a lot to be done before Gainesville shoppers don’t have to drive to the Buford or Cumming stores. - photo by NAT GURLEY

The renovation of Lakeshore Mall reached new heights Wednesday.

Construction crews used a helicopter to hoist nine commercial air conditioners to the rooftop of Dick’s Sporting Goods for installation. The units varied in size, with the largest ones capable of 50 tons of cooling.

The addition of the popular sporting goods retailer is a major aspect of the mall renovation plans, and it is scheduled to open in early October.

The renovations are part of a plan to redesign the mall to attract retailers and customers. It consolidated most of the smaller stores into a shopping area and added Dick’s Sporting Goods between the J.C. Penney Co. and Sears.

Other recent changes include American Deli, the former food court restaurant, opening a new location under the name Deli Max near the main entrance. The establishment is set to open in the next month and will have its own seating and facilities. Deli Max will serve chicken wings and tenders, submarine sandwiches, burgers, nachos, hot dogs and other items.

“People really liked their wings when they were in the food court,” said Kirsten Boettcher, marketing manager for the mall. “The new location will be an order-at-the-counter restaurant with a sit-down area.”

J.C. Penney officials have yet to announce whether they will renovate the current building or demolish it and build a new one. They have until September to decide.

Gainesville’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan made the renovation of Lakeshore Mall a priority and noted “repositioning Lakeshore Mall as a regional destination could benefit the city’s economic development program as well as raise its profile.”

While rebranding the mall as a premium retail center is a primary short-term goal, the plan also states the long-term conversion of the mall into a mixed-use “town center” is highly desirable.

Gainesville’s City Council and school board approved a request from Lakeshore owner Garrison Investment Group to make the property a tax allocation district, which could raise about $2.2 million in public funds for the development of infrastructure surrounding the mall.

The school board approved the TAD with a few conditions designed to benefit local students, which include internships or part-time job opportunities for students, participation in the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s Partners in Education initiative, and the availability of the mall’s parking lot for overflow parking during Gainesville High School’s graduation ceremony.

“The conditions, while not too terribly binding, were more of a statement of ‘welcome to Gainesville,’” school board member Sammy Smith said.

The mall’s representatives were quite “amenable and welcoming” to the conditions, he said.