Grocery chain eyes long-abandoned Northside mall

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR/RichmondBizSense.com) – A major player in the Richmond grocery wars is eyeing a long-abandoned Northside mall property.

Grocery giant Martin’s is looking into building a store at the former Azalea Mall site at Dumbarton Road and Azalea Avenue. It’s a preliminary sign of life for the 49-acre slab of overgrown concrete that housed the mall from its opening in 1963 until its demolition 15 years ago.

And, if all goes according to plan, Martin’s is just the beginning for the site.

Real estate company Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer recently published drawings depicting the potential grocery store as the anchor of a town center with 301,000 square feet of retail and 200 residential units. The development is dubbed Azalea Square.

“Oh, it is long gone. Yeah, it is depressing to look at I think,” says Anne Jennings who lives nearby.

Sharon Peebles says development is long overdue.

“It was a thriving mall. It was a nice mall. Oh, it has seen better days,” says Peebles. “I remember buying my daughters Stride Rite shoes here.”

When Azalea Mall first opened, Peoples Drug and Woolco welcomed countless shoppers, but after Thalhimers closed in 1991 the mall started going downhill. By 1998, Azalea was long gone. The only thing left standing was a lonely store directory sign.

“I remember the garden place more than anything because if I was going to the beach I’d stop and pick up some plants,” says Jennings.

The owner of the site, Dewberry Capital in Atlanta,  is promoting Azalea Square as a 1.3 million square foot mixed-use development with stores and hundreds of apartments and condos built in phases. A spokesman says assuming an anchor tenant can be found it would be at least a year and a half after a lease is signed that the doors would open.

People who work nearby tell us off camera that the empty lot attracts drug users and prostitutes. According Richmond Police stats In the last year officers responded to more than 1,000 calls in the Ginter Park Area ranging from burglary to drugs.

Sharon Peebles says she would welcome the new development with open arms.

“It could be anything here. There is enough space to do anything. And it would create jobs for people,” says Peebles.

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