ANDERSON – Running hundreds of feet along the floor through the center of Mounds Mall, a high-pressure hose supplies water to the Dr. Tavel Family Eye Care store.
It’s just one of the many problems Mark Squillante is addressing before the mall can be renovated and reopened. The new owner is working to address safety concerns, getting quotes to repair the roof and working out details for the future of the facility.
Mounds Mall — other than two tenants with exterior entrances, Dr. Tavel and the movie theater — was shuttered April 1, 2018, after many of its major tenants had closed their stores.
Squillante and his brother, Jason, purchased the mall for $12,000 at the Madison County Commissioner’s Certificate Sale this year and took possession in August.
“It’s a major overtaking,” Squillante said Monday inside the nearly vacant mall. “Walking through, you will see the state of the building. ... My biggest concern right now is there are a lot of (safety) violations.”
Several firewalls were not installed properly, according to Squillante. A crew was working to repair them Monday.
The movie theater is riddled with safety concerns, as well, he said. That’s one of the reasons it has been closed indefinitely.
The mall has a leaky roof, missing ceiling tiles and dripping water pipes. Squillante was getting quotes on roof repair Monday.
Eventually, he said, the name of the mall will be changed.
“I know there is a tradition,” he said. “But it’s going to be renovated and have a new concept and will need a new name.”
Squillante said community connections are an important part of his plan for the mall.
“I have a vision where people can go on their first date here; register for their wedding presents and, when they’re older, walk hand in hand through the mall,” he explained.
Squillante said several legal issues must be resolved before the entire 300,000 square foot can be reopened. But he intends to open the movie theater as quickly as possible.
The cost to reopen the 10-screen theater could run from $700,000 to $1 million, he said, mostly for new projection equipment and seating.
The new owner is working on a “Spooktacular” Halloween event with local public safety agencies to pass out candy and free popcorn to kids. The event could include a demonstration by police dogs.
“This will be a mall,” Squillante promised. “We want community and national retail outlets. We want the mall to be a destination for Anderson and the region.”
Squillante has met with Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger about the possibility of leasing space for a police training center in the old Carson’s furniture area. The new owner also visualizes a law enforcement substation operated by the Anderson Police Department.
Mellinger said the mall parking lots could be used for police driving skills training.
“We need to know more details and the costs,” the sheriff said. “Right now, we do county-wide training for 10 agencies, and there is a lot of training done together.”
Currently, Squillante and his brother are contracting help to secure the building for the winter.
“We have to see if the heating/air conditioning systems are working,” Squillante noted. “We don’t know the cost of the upgrades for a 300,000 square foot building.”
He said replacing the ceiling tiles alone could cost $100,000.
Squillante purchased the mall at the sheriff’s certificate sale for $12,00. He said he probably would not have bid higher.
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done with the building,” he said Monday. “It’s a beautiful space with a lot of possibilities. I can see the possibilities here. It’s a question of getting enough money to get it working again.”