Between the soon-to-be-shuttered Belk department store and the food court, which is the midpoint of the mall, I counted a dozen empty shops at Brookwood Village.
Another five dot the other half of the mall — the area between the food court and Macy’s. This means roughly a third of the shops inside Brookwood Mall are vacant. A few stores were occupied but closed for reasons that were unclear. So it’s no wonder the announcement that Belk will close this January has residents of Homewood concerned for the future of this property.
“The neighborhood is really kind of nervous that this will just turn into an empty mall like Eastwood or Century Plaza where you have all this real estate and nothings in it,” says Julie Tucker, who lives near Brookwood Mall.
Brookwood representatives say they knew about Belk’s decision to close the store before the start of a multi-phase development plan, including a $20 million renovation. Officials say redevelopment of the Belk store is the second phase of that plan, which they say will be announced soon. Tucker says residents would like to see another department store, or even furniture giant IKEA move into the space, but “I don’t know if they would come here if there isn’t anything in the middle,” Tucker says. “So it’s kind of like a chicken or an egg. It’s like they’re not going to bring anchor stores if there are no stores in the middle, and then no stores in the middle can come if there’s no anchor stores.”
The popularity and convenience of online shopping has delivered the biggest blow to brick and mortar malls, and Brookwood Village, like many others, has struggled to compete. Officials with the mall did not respond to requests for an interview. Still, many people want instant satisfaction when they shop. They want to be able to walk away with that new pair of shoes. For Belk lovers, the company says its four other nearby stores are still open for business.