The city and the Grimmer family of Birmingham, which owns most of the Quintard Mall, are talking about a deal centered on planned renovations and possibly new buildings at the mall, Oxford Mayor Leon Smith says.
At a City Council work session on June 9, Smith discussed the mall's plans without going into detail.
"I think they want to do some of the old part down around the (JC) Penny's," he said.
Smith would not elaborate on what the city would provide. It does involve consulting with Clifford Lanier, owner of the Frazier Lanier Co., which sells bonds to municipal investors. In the past, the city has borrowed money to do site preparation work for retailers, but Smith said that isn't what the city will do in this case. He said the deal will be discussed publicly in the near future.
Attempts to reach the Grimmer family and Frazier Lanier failed Tuesday.
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the mall's purchase by the Grimmer family. The last major mall expansion, which doubled the size of the mall, happened in 2000. It added the mall's east wing and the Dillard's department store.
Brooke McCulley, marketing director for the mall, said she could not discuss details of the plan.
"We've got some exciting news coming up, but we can't announce anything right now," she said. The news will hopefully come soon, she said. "We're waiting on a signature."
Council members also were not sure about the particulars of the plan. Councilwoman June Land Reaves said she was interested to hear more, but said other retailers would like an assist from the city as well. Council President Chris Spurlin said he didn't know about the discussions.
Councilman Steven Waits said he is not sure what the plan is, but said he's open to the idea of helping the mall.
"The mall is an extremely important retail center for our city, and I'm obviously interested in its success," he said.
Within the last year, the mall has seen Goody's, Friedman's Jewelers and Garfield's Restaurant & Pub close their doors. The mall also has competition from Oxford's newest retail hub, the Oxford Exchange.
Though it might sound counter-intuitive to invest in renovation in a tough economy, a business observer and a retail observer say it's a matter of survival.
"One thing about retail is that you can never rest," Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce President Sherri Sumners said. "Tastes change, trends change. They always have to innovate, so I'm sure that's part of the (reason) behind having the folks at Quintard Mall do some things."
She said she did not know the specifics of the mall's plans.
Nancy Dennis, director of public relations for the Alabama Retail Association, said with the current depressed real estate prices, it's a good time for businesses to expand if they have the money. It's even better if they have a city that's willing to help.
"It's got to be, first off, a good place (for businesses) to locate," Dennis said. "But if the demographics are in place plus there's some kind of incentive package, that makes it a win-win situation and a no-brainer. That's where you go."