Calhoun Square awaits another remodel under local buyer

Stuart Ackerberg says that when he’s finished buying and renovating Calhoun Square, it won’t feel like a mall anymore.

Prior national owners have created an environment that looks like any other shopping center in the U.S., he said, and they focused on landing national tenants like H&M.

Ackerberg is interested in more local tenants, but he doesn’t have much space to work with. He said the center is 88 percent leased, a number of the tenants are doing very well, and much of the vacancy is Figlio/Primebar’s old space. Initially he’s hiring Shea, Inc. to redesign the center, and he plans to enliven the Girard Avenue walkway between Calhoun Square and the parking ramp.

Ackerberg has tried to buy Calhoun Square a couple of times before. He said the center’s historically high vacancy rates impact perceptions from other retailers his company works with, who wonder why the Uptown shopping center isn’t working.

“If we could control that property, we could control our own destiny,” he said. “It’s the most dominant property, historically, in Uptown.”

The mid-April sale would include a vacant site at 1301 W. Lake. Ackerberg said he hasn’t spent much time on plans for it, but he wants any development to further his goal of expanding the daytime population in Uptown — the Calhoun Square ramp is empty during the day, he said.

“The no-brainer [development] is housing,” he said. “But that’s not the best use for that site. That would not make Uptown more healthy and vibrant.”

Instead, Ackerberg is envisioning something more along the lines of an office or mixed-use project. Uptown could also support a hotel, he said, particularly if there was a boost in daytime life.

The Ackerberg Group hopes to start construction in July on MoZaic East, an eight-story office building at Lagoon & Fremont. And the company recently finished an office renovation of 1300 Lagoon (home to Bar Abilene), with options for offices as small as 250 square feet.

Ackerberg said he plans to visit neighborhood groups in the coming months to seek feedback on the type of development they would like to see.

“At the end of the day, we’re here to serve the community,” he said.