CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Town Center has had a $7 million facelift as the shopping mecca prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary.
Forest City Enterprises Inc., which owns the Town Center, invested the $7 million last year to completely overhaul the mall's flooring, railing and other facilities.
Town Center marketing director Lisa McCracken said the renovations now give the mall a sleeker, more contemporary look and feel.
In particular, she said the renovation of the mall's Center Court — which included removing a nearly 30-year-old fountain and replacing it with couch and bar seating — have made the mall more attractive to young professionals in the area.
"The renovations at Center Court have been extremely well-received by hotel guests and our everyday customers," McCracken said.
Center Court has long been home to the popular Starbucks coffee chain. With the addition of Wi-Fi — not just in the court, but throughout the mall — more people are now coming to the mall to network and work away from the home or office.
McCracken said having Wi-Fi is essential for many modern consumers, who like the be connected to internet and use social networks as they are out on the town.
She said the addition of new seating areas and technology has helped prepare the mall for the consumers of tomorrow.
"This is a major investment that Forest City has made prior to our 30-year anniversary, and it prepares the shopping center for the next 30 years," she said.
The Town Center also partnered with Charleston Area Medical Center to open a new indoor play area, dubbed the "Play Patch," on Dec. 17.
The approximately 1,100-square-foot fruit-and-vegetable-themed play area is an attempt by CAMC and the mall to encourage children to eat healthy foods and exercise.
The Town Center has certainly evolved since it first opened in 1983.
At the time, the 933,979-square-foot mall was the largest urban shopping center east of the Mississippi River.
The mall has had to adapt to the constant changes in the retail market over the years. That included moving beyond just providing retail space.
"Malls evolve," McCracken said. "Charleston Town Center has become a mixed-use center."
The biggest challenge the mall faced was when Montgomery Ward — which was one of four original anchor stores at the mall — announced it would close in late 2000.
Eventually, Forest City executives were able to ink a deal in 2006 with Brickstreet Insurance to move into the location.
"What a wonderful opportunity that we were able to work with and attract Brickstreet Insurance to that location," McCracken said.
She said Brickstreet now provides 400 employees who park, work, eat and shop around mall property each day.
The upstairs food court has also evolved over the years.