By George Slaughter
Officials from the City of Katy and Simon Malls, owner of the Katy Mills Mall, announced a multi-million dollar mall redevelopment project Thursday morning at Katy Mills Mall.
Katy Mills Mall is one of the city’s key attractions and economic generators. The announcement follows four years of discussions between city officials and Simon Malls of Indianapolis, which owns the mall. Officials declined to give a specific figure.
Officials expect the changes, which include a complete interior renovation, to modernize and create a brighter atmosphere in the mall.
Michael Romstad, Simon Malls executive vice president for property management, said the renovations should be substantially finished by the end of this year.
“All the work will happen overnight,” Romstad said. “There won’t be any inconveniences because the work will happen after hours.”
Work in the higher level of the mall will be the first phase of the project, with work moving down to the ground level as things develop. Mall visitors can expect to see light fixtures and tiles removed, and primer on the walls as the mall undergoes redevelopment.
Internal changes include updating and recasting the food court into a dining pavilion, new lounge areas, and improved lighting with LED lighting. Ramstad said that reducing the carbon footprint was a factor in the mall redevelopment.
Other changes include a refreshed children’s play area, new flooring, and updated way-finding signage to help people find their entertainment, restaurant, and store choices.
Romstad said mall customers will still be able to get around and shop at their favorite stores. The stores themselves may undergo their own renovations during this time, he said, but that would be up to the individual stores.
Romstad described the mall as one of Simon Malls’s premier assets.
“We’re investing to make sure it remains a market-dominant shopping center,” Romstad said.
The mall has more than 175 stores and opened in 1999. It has long been an attraction for Katy residents and visitors. City officials said that the mall’s opening put Katy on a solid economic footing thanks to the city sales taxes raised, and would also enable the city to keep property taxes low.
The mall’s importance becomes more compelling given that the mall industry has undergone challenges in recent years thanks in part to the popularity of online shopping.
“Simon could have pulled out,” Mayor Chuck Brawner said. “Malls are a different thing these days, but this one is doing well.”
Both Romstad and Brawner said the relationship between Simon Malls and the city was extremely important.
“It’s a great relationship and we look forward to it continuing,” Romstad said.
Brawner agreed, and said if the relationship wasn’t great, Simon wouldn’t be spending millions of dollars to upgrade the mall.
“If we don’t work with those Simon folks, what’s going to happen to the building?” Brawner asked, adding that he didn’t want a “mushroom farm or something else.”
The redevelopment affects the people directly working in or near the mall, to be sure, but the economic effects those with indirect ties to the mall—people like HVAC and electrical contractors, Romstad said, who work on parts of the mall.
Redeveloping the mall is one of a number of economic development projects on the city’s south side. Construction crews last May began the first phase of development for the Katy Boardwalk Project, a site that will have a convention center, garage, hotel, 650 loft living spaces, a nature preserve, restaurants and a retail plaza.
Brawner said the Boardwalk will be economically connected with the mall.
“They’re going to complement each other,” Brawner said, adding that they will help Katy become a destination city.
“A lot of people who go to conventions, especially in the summertime, Mom and the kids come with Dad,” Brawner said. While Dad attends the convention, he said, Mom and the kids can go shopping at the mall or enjoy the waterpark. Eventually, the city plans to incorporate a trolley to shuttle people to downtown to see the attractions there.