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What's next for the Bristol Mall? City leaders share some possibilities

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A date is officially set for the Bristol Mall's closure. That's left a lot of people wondering what's next?

There's only one store still open in the mall. The owner of that store, KSS, said it will close September 2nd.

City leaders said nothing is set yet. But they are brainstorming ideas with the mall's owners, who live out of state. They all agree one thing is for sure: it most likely will not become another retail development.

It may be hard to believe now, but at one point, people came from all over Southwest Virginia to shop at the Bristol Mall.

"I grew up going to the mall - it was all we had," Bart Poe said. "You went to the mall, you went to the movies, you bought your clothes there."

Poe is the city's interim Director of Economic Development. He and other city leaders are working on the next step.

"The city needs all the revenue it can get right now," Chamber of Commerce president Beth Rhinehart said. "It kind of puts it at a real tipping point for needing something that is going to generate revenue or something that's going to create a better workforce."

Poe said one idea is to rezone part of the property to build more housing. Another idea is to use the space for manufacturing.

"The building is in great condition," Poe said. "It lends itself really well to that because of the open span. Some of the places even have loading docks."

City leaders have been talking to the mall's owners about these ideas.

"They have been great to work with and are open to any and all ideas," Rhinehart said.

She added other possibilities include turning the building into an event facility or tearing it down completely.

Poe said whatever it becomes, it's important that it doesn't cost the city more money.

"The city has worked hard to get out of the business of developing places," Poe said. "We want businesses like that to stand on their own."

But city leaders are hopeful the space can be vibrant again.

"I hate that it can't be a retail establishment, but it doesn't mean it can't be something else very productive for the community," he said.

News 5 also spoke to Bristol, Virginia schools superintendent, Keith Perrigan. He confirms the school system may be interested in re-purposing the building for educational use.

There's no deadline for when a decision will be made. City leaders said the mall owners are waiting for the right opportunity.

We also called the owners, but did not hear back immediately.

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