HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- With a big tug from an excavator, the sign on Fairfield Commons Mall came tumbling to the ground with a crash Thursday. A symbolic gesture, for sure, but one county leaders hope is the start of an economic turnaround for the mall and Eastern Henrico.
When it was first constructed 1968, the mall near the intersection of Nine Mile Road and Laburnam Avenue was known as Eastgate Mall. When it reopens in the fall of 2016, the redeveloped retail center will go by the name Eastgate Town Center, an ode to the memories many still have of the original mall.
A 190,000 square-foot Walmart will serve as the anchor store.
According to Richmond Biz Sense, Planet Fitness, Citi Trends, MetroPCS, DaVinci Pizza and Lee Nails have already signed leases to open stores when construction is complete.
"People have been talking to me about the mall, and I say, 'What happened was the mall went comatose, and what we going to have now is this mall is going to the hospital,'" said Frank Thornton, who represents the Fairfield District for Henrico County.
"The stronger is area is the stronger our community is, and the stronger our community is, the stronger this area will be," said Tyrone Nelson, the Varina District Supervisor.
Even though the demolition phase of the project has just begun, developers hope to begin opening stores by fall 2016. Longtime residents in Eastern Henrico are excited to see a much needed shot-in-the-arm for the area.
"[The mall] was an eye-soar for a while, and now it's time for it to be erased," said Tonya Myers, who just opened a new coffee shop in Sandston. "Let's emerge into a new day."