Changes at Chapel Hills despite bankruptcy

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A carousel is one of the amenities that has been added at Chapel Hills Mall.

A carousel is one of the amenities that has been added at Chapel Hills Mall.

General Growth Properties, a publicly traded real estate investment trust that owns and operates Chapel Hills Mall, is accelerating its plan to emerge from bankruptcy protection by forging agreements with lenders on about $9.7 billion in outstanding mortgage loans.

Chapel Hills Mall General Manager David Moss said the move is a precursor to the company’s general restructuring plan, which will be released during February.

“This represents a major chunk of our outstanding debt load,” Moss said. “For Chapel Hills Mall, however, it’s business as usual. It doesn’t affect our day-to-day operations on a local level.”

Shoppers who visit the mall during the holidays will see a few new amenities, including a carousel and dog-training displays in the theater wing, a soft-seating area near the upper-level Macy’s wing and a miniature train ride near Borders book store.

“The carousel has a unique ride sound and adds energy to the mall,” Moss said. “Kids seem to like it and parents, too. Shopping is more fun when you have something to look forward to.”

The soft-seating area was installed three days before Thanksgiving and provides weary shoppers with leather sofas, plush carpeting and a high-end, soft-lit chandelier. All the furniture was purchased from Macy’s.

Moss said the primary users of the new area have been men (surprise) … and families.

The mall also is working with Sit Means Sit Dog Training. Trainers bring dogs in and show off tricks, like posing for photos and fetching.

The display is meant to show visitors how Sit Means Sit can train any dog of any size to obey commands. The display opened during the week of Thanksgiving and will remain in place until the beginning of January.

Clerk and recorder splits

Following the departure of the El Paso County Clerk and Recorders office location, which is moving from Chapel Hills Mall to the Union Town Center near Research Parkway and Union Boulevard, Chapel Hills Mall will be 80 percent occupied, but shoppers will notice a 6,000 square-foot open space in the upper-level Dillard’s wing.

“It was a great service that the mall could provide for people, especially on voting days,” Moss said. “No one likes to lose a tenant and we thought we made a valiant effort to keep them, but the county had to make a choice that they liked best.”

Mall management is seeking a replacement tenant and Moss said he’s received interest from a few parties.

“We’re looking for destination uses, restaurants, other offices, maybe even another government use,” he said. “Hopefully once the clerk and recorder has exited, we’ll see even more interest.”

The office will reopen at 8830 N. Union Blvd. on Dec. 14.

Trickle down benefits

Doug Pua opened ShangriLa restaurant in the Union Town Center during 2003, and has watched business grow steadily at the 154-seat restaurant. He’s optimistic that he’ll see a significant jump in customer traffic with the addition of the Clerk and Recorder’s office to the center.

“The Powers and downtown branches are closed on Fridays, so this branch will be the only one open on that day,” Pua said. “People have no choice (but) to come here if they want to get their business done with the clerk and recorder. We’re thinking people will notice us and stop in or think of coming back to us later.”

Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.