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MASON CITY, Iowa – Plans to transform Southbridge Mall into a gigantic family entertainment hub got initial support Tuesday night from the Mason City City Council.
David Rachie of Gatehouse Capital, who is also building a new hotel and convention center next to the mall, told the Council they’ve decided to purchase the mall itself. Rachie says they realized it wouldn’t do the hotel project any good to have a dead mall behind it. He says Gatehouse expects to finalize the purchase of the mall within 90 days.
Rachie praises Southbridge Mall as being very successful for several decades but says it needs to be repurposed to fit a changing economy. Gatehouse’s plan for the mall would keep the few retail locations that remain and reopen the movie theater while adding a bar and sports hall of fame involving Iowa Hawkeye broadcaster Gary Dolphin, a brewery/beer garden, a pizza place, a comedy bar, a bowling alley, go-kart tracks, golf simulators, and an arcade.
City administrator Aaron Burnett is optimistic about reinventing the space, with the idea for the project coming from the recent Main Street Survey.
"This was one of those things mentioned. Actually, quite a few things proposed in the development. We're very excited about this, this has been a long time coming. I think this is a great reuse of this space, and continuing to preserve the businesses already in it."
He feels the redevelopment will help the mall fit into the overall downtown landscape.
"The unique quality of having a mall like this is that, while it's out of date and has served its purpose since the 1980s, the reality is that a lot of those have to be turned outward now. You see that with the concept drawings, opening up towards Delaware Street and see it opening to the outside. You have both the ability of being indoors and staying out of the elements, but also being welcomed in from all different entrances rather than one or two entrances."
The Council voted Tuesday night to set a June 1st public hearing on amending the Mason City Downtown Reinvestment Urban Renewal Plan to accommodate the Gatehouse mall project.