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Former mall generating revenue, projected to be self-sustaining in 2016

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

The former Salisbury Mall has generated enough money to date to cover all expenses and generate more than $160,000 in revenue for Rowan County, according to the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget.

County Manager Aaron Church’s proposed budget shows the former mall generated $535,539 in rent and fees from July 1 to May 15. Expenses for the former mall are $271,314 to date, according to the county’s proposed budget.

“Just based on daily operations, it is sustaining itself,” Church said about the former mall’s finances.

In the coming fiscal year, Church’s estimates are more conservative than current revenues. Expenses are projected to be $25,000 more than revenues. When questioned, Church said the estimates are conservative. The former mall, now called West End Plaza, is generating enough money to be considered self-sustaining, he said.

“One reason for the conservative estimates is that a number of leases are based on a percentage of sales,” Church said.

His projection is for the West End Plaza to generate $500,000 in rent and no money in miscellaneous receipts. The largest two expenses in the budget for West End Plaza are salaries for county staff and electricity.

Church said the West End Plaza’s budget is similar to the Rowan County Airport and the landfill. Both are self-funded and labeled enterprise funds.

“I think it’s encouraging for everyone at this point,” said County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds. “As we try to plan and decide where we go from this point on, we’re not under a tremendous amount of pressure to move ahead and make short-sighted moves.”

Edds said the future finances of the West End Plaza will largely be determined by the use that’s determined by commissioners. Although commissioners’ intent is to locate county departments in the West End Plaza, another potential use that’s been discussed is an event space for conventions and banquet dinners.

“There are government types of enterprises that could bring revenues to that facility,” he said.

Even with its relatively balanced budget for the coming year, More than $1 million is currently budgeted for capital expenditures at West End Plaza. Church’s budget would add $615,000 to the capital expenditure fund for West End Plaza. With the addition, the total amount budgeted for capital expenditures at West End Plaza would be about $1.8 million, Church said.

The funds haven’t been set aside for any particular capital expenditure at the West End Plaza, he said. Earlier this year, commissioners canceled all previously approved contracts at the former Salisbury Mall. On Monday, commissioners are scheduled to consider approval of a measure that would begin the process of collecting qualifications of architecture firms to oversee West End Plaza construction.

Edds said county departments would begin moving to the West End Plaza at some point during the 2016 fiscal year — July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. Commissioners haven’t yet finalized the list of which departments will move to West End Plaza. Veterans Services and Elections have been repeatedly cited as needing more space, and among the first county departments that would move. The Department of Social Services is another department shown on both versions of the county’s master plan as moving to the West End Plaza.

When asked about a timeline for a decision on the master plan, Edds instead focused on potential uses for the former mall that would generate excitement in the Rowan County community.

“One thing I’m encouraging everybody to think about is not the department the master plan calls to move there,” Edds said. “My focus now is on the remaining square footage and what turns that facility into a great asset for our community.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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