Advocate editorial board opinion: Victoria needs to look toward retail future

July 19, 2014 at 2:19 a.m.
Updated July 20, 2014 at 2:20 a.m.

Looks matter.

The appearance of a city makes a huge difference to how its residents feel about where they live and how visitors view whether they want to move there.

As a centerpiece of the city's retail center, the condition of the Victoria Mall matters. A sparkling mall reflects a growing, vibrant city.

The good news is the mall's owners, Hull Storey Gibson, of Augusta, Ga., have announced plans to give the 35-year-old mall a facelift in early 2015. The mall will receive new carpeting, fresh paint, improved lighting and an enhanced rear entrance.

The mall was last renovated nine years ago, and many customers have complained about the worn-out, stained carpet. Owner Jim Hull, who visited with the Advocate's editorial board recently, conceded nine years was too long and pledged to replace the carpet every four to five years.

Hull was extremely bullish on Victoria in his comments and said the city was an all-star poised for even better times ahead.

In particular, he noted the city's historical character, its downtown and its growing four-year university as strong elements supporting Victoria's future. The new and improved Victoria Mall will try to capture an "inspirational and aspirational" feel that will appeal to residents, he said.

Hull said he hopes the city and retailers will work together to reduce the leakage of shoppers going elsewhere. This loss of sales tax dollars hurts the city's ability to provide services and amenities to its residents.

The leakage can be reduced if the city and business owners resist fragmentation by promoting a retail corridor and working together to recruit new retailers while clearing out buildings that no longer fit where Victoria is going, Hull said. Private enterprise should lead the way.

Hull's view of Victoria is exciting. His company operates 21 malls and 21 shopping centers in the United States.

City leaders should listen when Hull says the key to getting what you want is to plan. What retail do Victoria and the Crossroads really want?

This growing region doesn't need to settle for letting people head to Sugar Land, Corpus Christi, Austin or San Antonio for shopping and dining trips. The change won't happen overnight, but Victoria can fill many more of these needs.

And that would be a sight to behold.



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