RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - People in North Richmond want answers about the barren wasteland once called Azalea Mall. Neighbors say it's been a waste of space ever since it was demolished in 1998.
The questions about this property have always been there, but started to resurge in the last few weeks on community blogs and email lists. People want to know what if anything is happening on the site. We visited the property this week and tried to track down the owners.
The property is 48 acres of nothing but cracked cement, broken tiles, trees and weeds sneaking through chain link fencing. You almost expect to see tumbleweeds. The old sign for the mall still stands, like an obituary of stores long gone.
"I think the only people that enjoy it now are the geese and they don't stay very long," said Annette Holt, who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years and remembers well when it was a bustling mall.
"It was nice to have a mall, but it was pretty rundown by the end," she said. "We were promised all kinds of exciting things in it's place, another mall with a movie theater, a place for kids to go."
Azalea Mall opened in the 1960s as the first enclosed mall in Richmond. It housed Woolworth's and Thalhimers. And after a 30-year hey day, it died off. The property was eventually bought by Atlanta-based Dewberry Capital. The new owners razed the mall, and for the past 12 years, it has sat empty.
The majority of the old Azalea Mall property is in Henrico County, but a portion fills Richmond councilman Chris Hilbert's district.
"There was I think ample opportunity during the real estate boom to try some different things with the property, it never worked out," Hilbert said.
He has contacted Dewberry Capital over the years, but says he's received little response. We left several messages with the company, but never got a call back.
Hilbert said the neighboring retirement community Westminster Canterbury made a fair offer on the property a few years ago, double what Dewberry Capital paid for it, but he says Dewberry held out.
Some residents tell us they would like a new mall, others want a park. There's an effort to plant trees around the site to shade it from view.
"A lot of people tell out-of-town developers Richmond is different, I think Dewberry Capital can tell you Richmond is different," said Hilbert.
We will continue to reach out to Dewberry and report any updates.