With news of a foreclosure decree being issued against the Pines Mall following a lawsuit against the property owners by Carrington Electric, Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington and others are sharing their remembrances and concerns about one of the city’s most high profile retail locations.
"The success of the Pines Mall is important to our community. For years, it has been a place for the people of Pine Bluff and throughout Southeast Arkansas to gather, shop, and enjoy all this community has to offer,” Washington said. “With the growth and development that our city is positioned for, the Pines Mall is a prime investment opportunity.”
Washington said that “the time is right” for development of the Pines Mall with the addition of the casino, which is scheduled to open in early 2020.
“The place is perfect in that the mall is located near the proposed location of the casino,” she said.
The Pine Bluff Commercial obtained information last week noting that Carrington Electric, Inc. was awarded a foreclosure decree in a lawsuit against the Pines Mall after current owners failed to pay for work provided by the company.
Additionally, the Pines Mall lost a lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt’s court against Walmart for breach of contract.
The Pines Mall breached the contract on terms including, but not limited to failure to maintain and keep common areas of the mall properly clean and operational. The judgment found that the Pines Mall is also excused from any obligation under the contract to maintain the property owned by Walmart.
Walmart filed a motion requesting attorney’s fees, but the motion was not granted.
As of Friday afternoon, Carrington Electric Inc. had not moved forward with filing the foreclosure decree. If it is filed, the property will go up for auction after 30 days.
So far, mall owners James Vu, John Vu and Thuythien (Judy) Vu, DBA Pines Mall, have not made any comment about their legal troubles.
Back at the mayor’s office, Washington also commented on things she would like to see happen with the Pines Mall in the coming months.
“It would be wonderful to see the movie theater upgraded and operating at a high level once more,” Washington said. “The possibility of the mall opening outlets would be welcomed by the citizens of Pine Bluff as well as neighboring communities throughout Southeast Arkansas.”
“I am committed to working with the Pines Mall to grow into a 21st century institution that meets the needs of our community," Washington added.
Pine Bluff City Council Member Win Trafford also offered comments on the current state of the Pines Mall.
“I hate to see the way the mall has just almost collapsed over the last few years,” Trafford said. “I believe it is a vital place for our community. It could serve our citizens and our kids in a vital way if proper management could attract the right vendors, if we could have a well-run theater. It would serve our community in a great way to have something sitting there in a prime location. With it not being used to its best potential is very sad.”
Like many who have lived in the Pine Bluff area for many years, Trafford has fond memories of the popularity of the Pines Mall.
“I can very vividly remember going there as a teenager and enjoying many, many days there, weekends and nights, playing at the arcade, going to movies and shopping at every store,” Trafford said. “There were lots and lots of options. Seeing a crowded food court and I would love to see that mall be able to be truly utilized the way it should be again in a way that is beneficial to our community.”
Christy Fitzhugh-Thompson wrote on The Commercial’s Facebook page that she “worked at customer service next to Walmart in 1990 and remember the mall being so crowded at Christmas (that) they had considered not letting anyone else in due to fire codes and crowd control.
“I also worked at wrap it up at Christmas, wrapping gifts and at one point there were 10 of us wrapping non-stop and people were lined halfway down the mall, and the smell of fresh baked cookies and candy in the air, those are great memories.”
Nicole Dendy wrote: “The mall was a good place to shop and can be again with the right management. (People) need to be more aware of who they sell things to. All it will take is someone with a business mind financially, personally and clean.”
Lizzie Mae Hill offered a more critical comment, saying, “State of the mall is the fault of the community. The people who didn't support the businesses. They begin to leave, because they need business/money to survive. The owners prior was not making money. They sold the business to the owner now.”