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South Hills Village to get major makeover

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Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
The South Hills Village Mall will start renovations this spring, including new escalators to replace existing stair cases at both ends of the mall.
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Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
The South Hills Village Mall will start renovations this spring, including five updated entrances with automatic doors and new facades.
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Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Dale Schneider of Banksville treats his girls Gabrielle Schneider, 6, Taylor Schneider, 3 and Alayna Maxino, 5 for ice cream in the food court at the South Hills Village Mall Thursday, January 30, 2014. The food court at the mall is among the renovations starting in the spring.

South Hills Village mall will undergo a multimillion-dollar renovation as part of its owner’s plan to spruce up some of its shopping centers — to the tune of $3 billion — through 2016, an official said.

“We’re very focused on making our malls completely up-to-date and with the latest customer amenities, and giving our customers the best experience in which to shop and dine and be entertained,” Les Morris, spokesman for Simon Property Group Inc., said on Thursday.

The recession hurt shopping centers nationwide, so retail property owners have been upgrading malls rather than building more of them, said Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers in New York.

“I think 2014 will remain more about redevelopment, as opposed to new development,” he said.

That could include adding tenants for a better mix.

Simon, which is based in Indianapolis, owns or has an interest in more than 325 retail real estate properties in Asia and North America, including Ross Park Mall, a high-end retail property off McKnight Road in Ross.

It acquired South Hills Village, on Route 19 in Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair, in 1997. The mall opened in 1964.

The two-story mall has a high occupancy rate and a good anchor lineup, Morris said, with Macy’s, Target, Sears and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Simon’s annual financial filing, released in February 2013, put South Hills Village’s occupancy rate at 90.9 percent.

Simon said it would begin renovating South Hills Village in April. That includes a major redo of the food court, with new flooring and lighting and a new color scheme. Banquette and cafe-style seating will replace traditional seating, and decorative columns with wood and a porcelain tile finish and cellphone charging stations will be added.

Escalators will replace stairs at each end of the mall, near the Macy’s and Target stores.

Other upgrades will include redesigning five entrances and adding glass railings, carpeting and lighting to common areas.

A restaurant manager in the food court said the renovations would be a welcome change.

“It kind of looks rundown now. … If they renovate it, I think it would be better for business,” said D.J. Riva, manager of South Philly Steaks & Fries.

Sarah Jackson, assistant manager of the women’s accessories store Audrey’s, said business is good.

“Improvements will help to bring in more traffic,” she said.

Mall officials declined to disclose the cost of the work but said it will be done in a way that minimizes inconvenience to customers.

Much of the work will take place when the mall is closed, Morris said. Crews will finish by the end of the year, officials said.

About 20 stores will open, expand or renovate in South Hills Village this year, said mall spokeswoman Jennifer Carroll.

Among retailers opening this year, Color Me Mine opened on Thursday; it allows customers to paint ceramics in the store. The lingerie store Soma, shoe and accessory boutique Primadonna and women’s clothing store Forever 21 are planned.

Baldwin friends Gloria Chape, 67, and Mary Ellen Sloss, 72, dined in the food court Thursday afternoon. Though they live closer to Century III Mall in West Mifflin, that mall’s rundown appearance makes South Hills Village their regular shopping destination, the women said.

Escalators would improve South Hills Village, they said, though they hoped the renovations would not change the character of the mall.

“Things now are so modernistic and streamlined, but let’s think about maintenance and everything, too,” Chape said.

Tory N. Parrish is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5662 or [email protected].

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