By Carlie Kollath Wells/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Gloster Creek Village has new owners with big ideas to jump-start Tupelo’s former mall.
Chris Mills, Dr. Steve Mills, Sean Kohen and Jason Perry bought out the former owners and took possession of the complex June 15. Chris and Steve Mills’ mother, Jane Mills, was part of the previous ownership group, along with Len Pegues, Tommy Morgan and three others.
Chris Mills is from Tupelo and used to run Uncle Joe’s Shell stations. He oversees the daily operations of Gloster Creek Village.
With a long list of items he wanted to do, Mills had Mother Nature help him prioritize.
About a month after Mills and his partners bought the facility, a major storm hit and flooded parts of the complex.
The rain came after high temperatures in June and was followed by a hail storm in July. But it was the July 12 storm that was the last blow.
“I don’t think we realized the severity of it until we had real heavy rains that day for about an hour,” Mills said. “There wasn’t a tenant or a room that didn’t have a leak.”
Added Chuck Smith of Mid-Western Commercial Roofers, “It looked like a hurricane.”
The entire 240,000-square-foot roof has to be replaced.
Thankfully, Mills said, his insurance company, Nationwide, is covering the project. A temporary roof coating was applied to prevent further damage, and now the long-term roof is being installed.
Mid-Western Commercial Roofers has been working on the project for about two weeks, with another four weeks left if the weather cooperates. As of Tuesday, they’d laid about 25,000 square feet of roofing.
Smith and Mills said they are trying to fix the roof everywhere, but they are focusing first on areas covering medical tenants and their expensive equipment.
The crews are removing the damaged roof mixture of tar and asphalt. Plus, they are removing any extra air conditioning units and other vent pipes that aren’t being used.
On Tuesday, crews were working on the roof above The Imaging Center. The building previously held Morrison’s Cafeteria. Mills and Smith pointed out several AC units marked with spray-painted Xs that will be removed.
“If it doesn’t have to come through that roof, we’re dismantling it,” Smith said.
Once the damaged roof is removed, workers are laying down insulation and then covering it with a 40-mil, single-ply Duro-Last roofing material.
Smith said the new roof will make the building more energy efficient and stop leaks. Duro-Last on its website says the white roof being put down reflects 88 percent of the sun’s energy.
GETTING A NEW LOOk
In addition to a new roof, Gloster Creek is getting a makeover. Mills hired The McCarty Co. to help give the facility a cohesive look. Some of the mall’s exterior is stucco, while other parts are brick.
“We’re wrapping the entire mall with bricks to bring it up-to-date,” Mills said.
Mills also plans to change the Gloster Creek Village sign soon.
And all this work is going on while he’s recruiting more tenants. Last week, he confirmed Sir Antony’s Bakery will reopen in the food court. Sir Antony’s joins Ms. Ruth’s Express and Pizza Dr.
Sir Antony’s is slated to open in October.
Plus, Origins, a church offshoot of The Orchard, said it is moving this year from a space in downtown Tupelo to the former Premier Lady Fitness location.
“The other tenants are happy they are coming,” he said.
Mills said the overall mission is to make Gloster Creek more of a medical and professional center.
“We all know this isn’t retail,” he said.
Mills said he’s talking with several other tenants that are new to Tupelo. He said he hopes to have good news to share soon.
The redevelopment of Gloster Creek Village has been discussed for years. It was built more than 30 years ago and called the Tupelo Mall. It used to house a movie theater, Sears, McRae’s, a Reed’s branch, Morrison’s Cafeteria and dozens of other stores.
But it was competing for customers with the so-called Downtown Mall, which has since been converted into the BancorpSouth Arena.
Both malls lost retail traction when The Mall at Barnes Crossing opened in 1990 on the north side of town.
Pegues’ group took over the Gloster Creek complex in 1994 and worked to convert it into a multi-purpose professional office and retail space.
The South Gloster Business Association started meeting two years ago with the goal of revitalizing an area it thinks has been neglected or overlooked. Members are pushing for road improvements, more landscaping and other efforts to attract new businesses and retain old ones.
The association has heard research from several other groups, including the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, Mississippi State University and a task forced geared at South Gloster revitalization.
One suggestion from an MSU study was for the South Gloster area to focus on the health sector.
Dennis Seid contributed to this story.