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Commissioners talk West End Plaza, approve leases for six retail stores

Jon Barber suggested to fellow commissioners Monday having Rowan County Manager Gary Page deliver a monthly update on the status of West End Plaza.
The report would serve to inform the public as to what is happening at the former mall the county purchased a little more than two months ago.
“Basically, what I’m trying to do is facilitate a discussion with our citizens on a purchase we made, where we are and where we think we’re going,” Barber said. “I’m just looking for a vehicle to do that.”
That vehicle doesn’t look like it is going to go far as a couple fellow commissioners said monthly updates would be too frequent as not much progress would be announced on a month-to-month basis.
“We have had a lot of people from the community come forward, and they want us to form a committee,” said Jim Sides, chairman of the board. “They want us to go out and get everybody and his brother to come in and tell us what to do with the West End Plaza.”
The county has owned West End Plaza for less than three months, and Sides said the first thing commissioners had to do with 18 retail tenants is stabilize leases.
In a relatively quick approval of the board’s consent agenda, commissioners agreed to keeping six retail stores in West End Plaza through lease renewals – Urban Trends, GQ Men’s Wear, Bee Yang Alterations, Peking Chinese Restaurant, Super Nails and Lisa’s Hair Salon.
“We didn’t buy the mall for its retail potential, but you have to understand that there was retail potential, and we were obligated to honor the leases of those people that were there,” Sides said.
Commissioners will update the public on the progress at West End Plaza, Sides said, and the county already has accomplished more in the past two months than he thought would have been possible.
Sides said the different people who have approached him to talk about the commissioners’ decision to purchase the mall have surprised him.
“Very well-known people in the community have come up to me and have (told me they) think it is one of the smartest moves you ever made,” Sides said. “Of course, I’ve had some other influential people tell me it was the dumbest move you ever made. I think that is what you get all the time. You don’t always get accolades.”
Sides said commissioners don’t get enough credit for what they do right.
Commissioner Mike Caskey suggested organizing town hall meetings as a way to engaging the public in a discussion about West End Plaza.
While Caskey said it is important for citizens to know the “good things that are happening out there,” a month-to-month update is unnecessary.
The county is moving forward with plans to relocate the board of elections to West End Plaza, said Craig Pierce, vice chairman of the board.
“We currently have an architect working on those drawings as well as the veterans service center. We are going to expand availability of that property to our veterans,” Pierce said. “We currently have two veteran service officers, and plans are to possibly have a third one up here shortly. We would easily have five times the space we have now.”
A monthly update on West End Plaza would be overkill, Pierce said, and would result in repetitive reports.
“I think it would be best to wait until we sign new people and make the public aware at our meetings,” Pierce said. “(West End Plaza) was a good purchase, and as time moves forward, I think we’ll see just how great a move it really was.”

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