It was only a few years ago that you could not rent a spot at the Family Center at Fort Union for any price. It was the premier spot in that part of the county. All the stores where full and there wasn't a spot to be had. Have things changed in the last couple of years. The former Joannne's spot has been empty for more than a year (now being filled for the second time by a Halloween Store) as has several other spots in the center. To top it all off the Mervyn's store which is one of the largest in the mall is closing which will leave a large open hole.
Some of the blame for this can be directed at the owner of the shopping center who seems to be doing little to change the slide. There also has not been any upgrades to the center which is starting to look very dated.
To top it all off, the center is not pedestrian friendly. Even if you park your car with a short walk to the store you intend on using you take your life into your own hands as there are very few sidewalks and cars travel substantially above a safe operating speed.
Instead of letting the shopping center to continue its slow decline, how about making it a shining example of a mixed used pedestrian friendly environment. Here are some ideas:
1. Move some stores so they face Fort Union Blvd making the center friendly to pedestrians.
2. With a major apartment complex across the street, how about building a pedestrian bridge from the complex to the shopping center.
3. Some goes for the Union Plaza shopping complex. It is more trouble than it is worth to cross the street into the shopping center but with pedestrian bridges it would be easy but also would require more restaurants in the center (3 have closed-could it be the fact that the place is too hard to get into?).
4. Move Chili's and Bank One so that you rebuild the main entrance to the center to make it safer not only for pedestrians but also for cars but currently it is very dangerous.
5. In the rebuilding build a back alley for trucks so that they do not have to use the crowded drives as they have to do now.
6. The current location of Mervyn's would make a great area for a mixed use development that would curve around and head toward 1300 East. It could include offices or apartments and designed to create more foot traffic.
These changes would also make it easier for people riding transit to access the center. Currently people who arrive or depart on the westbound 85 have to cross very busy Fort Union Blvd, but the pedestrian footbridges for the apartments could be used by bus riders as well.
With new developments going in to the south, the owner of the Family Center needs to wake up and realize that if changes are not made the Family Center will be left in the dust. Instead, turn into a state of the art center, friendly to both people in cars and pedestrians: in other words turn it into a winner.