JONESBORO — Almost 10 months after a tornado ravaged The Mall at Turtle Creek, Mayor Harold Copenhaver said not enough progress has been made to bring the place back to life.
The city’s code enforcement and building inspectors declared the eastern-most portion of the structure “unsafe by virtue of its current dilapidated and unsanitary condition” in a letter to Brookfield Properties of Chicago, dated Friday and signed by Michael Tyner, director of code enforcement. “This property poses a hazard to the public and is a nuisance against public health.”
Since the tornado struck the mall on March 28, only Target, Dillard’s and J.C. Penney have reopened.
Tyner’s letter gives Brookfield officials 30 days to provide a detailed written plan on how they will repair or remove the structure. Brookfield would have 60 days to begin demolition if that’s the route they decide to take.
Failing that, the city council will consider whether to condemn the property and take remedial action, which would be charged to Brookfield.
In a news release, Copenhaver said he saw some progress during a recent tour of the damaged property, but not enough, considering the amount of time that has elapsed.
Citing a demand from the public as he campaigned for election, the new mayor made the mall a top priority, seeking a meeting with Rick Jackson, the mall’s general manager, during Copenhaver’s first week in office. Copenhaver was sworn in as mayor Jan. 1. Jackson didn’t respond to a Sun request for comment Friday.
Copenhaver said he enjoyed an open conversation with Jackson about the mall’s progress, and that the general manager expressed optimism that the west half, from just east of the food court where the former Victoria’s Secret operated to the Target that remains open, is salvageable.
“The rest will have to be razed, and I think that’s a pretty obvious conclusion,” Copenhaver said. “But in the big picture, it’s time for answers, and the people of Jonesboro deserve answers.
“The workers in those stores and in the mall need their jobs, and the city needs the commerce. But we cannot have that destruction sitting dormant in our city, both as a safety hazard and an eyesore, and I appreciate that Mr. Jackson understands that and is working with us.”
Copenhaver said he hopes Turtle Creek Mall rebuilds to whatever capacity is possible and that Jonesboro continues to provide key shopping and entertainment opportunities to the city and region.
Jackson eagerly agreed to two requests by the mayor: First, the closed north mall entrance connecting South Matthews Avenue to East Highland will open to traffic as early as the middle of next week. Also, Jackson offered the mall parking lot as a rapid COVID-19 vaccination/testing site, which the mayor saw as an act of dedication by Turtle Creek to the people of Jonesboro and Northeast Arkansas.