Inlet Square Mall: A Tale of Transformation in Garden City, SC

Early Years of Inlet Square Mall

Inlet Square Mall, a commercial cornerstone in Garden City, South Carolina, embarked on its journey in 1990, conceived and constructed by CBL Properties.

Its inception marked a significant milestone, positioning it as the premier shopping destination in the region. In size and ambition, it surpasses the now-defunct Myrtle Square Mall.

Initially hosting an array of 45 stores and services, the mall’s sprawling layout was a testament to its envisioned role as a bustling hub for shopping and social interaction.

The early 2000s indicated a new chapter for Inlet Square Mall as it transitioned to new ownership with grand plans akin to the successful Broadway at the Beach. This period was marked by strategic intentions to redefine the mall’s identity and enhance its appeal.

However, the ambitious vision faced hurdles, leading to a pivotal moment in 2007 when a comprehensive remodeling project was launched. This $4.5 million endeavor was not just a facelift but a crucial strategy to reposition the mall in the competitive landscape, especially after the opening of the colossal 1.3 million-square-foot Coastal Grand Mall in 2004.

The four-year renovation journey was a testament to resilience amidst financial constraints and dwindling foot traffic. The mall’s transformation was a calculated response to the evolving retail environment, aiming to retain its relevance and allure.

However, the period had its challenges. The departure of long-standing tenants, notably the 12-screen Regal Cinemas in 2010, underscored the shifting dynamics in the retail and entertainment sectors.

Despite these setbacks, Inlet Square Mall persevered, welcoming new ventures like Franks Cinebowl and Grill in 2011, which occupied the space left vacant by Regal Cinemas.

Inlet Square Mall’s early years depict ambition, challenges, and resilience. From its grand opening to the strategic renovations and the reshuffling of its tenant mix, the mall’s journey reflects the broader narrative of retail evolution.

In the context of coastal South Carolina, Inlet Square Mall’s narrative is intertwined with the local fabric. It contributed to the list of things to do in Myrtle Beach and shaped the commercial and social landscape.

A Decade of Challenges and Tenant Departures

The decade from 2010 to 2020 marked a tumultuous period for Inlet Square Mall, characterized by significant tenant departures and evolving market dynamics.

The onset of this era was marked by the closure of the 12-screen Regal Cinemas in 2010, a move that significantly impacted the mall’s foot traffic and its standing as an entertainment destination.

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This departure was a harbinger of the challenges ahead as the mall grappled with the changing retail and consumer behavior landscape.

The subsequent years saw the exit of anchor tenants, further destabilizing the mall’s commercial ecosystem. Kmart, a long-standing tenant since the mall’s inception, shut its doors in 2014, a decision influenced by the competitive pressure from opening a Walmart Supercenter in Garden City.

The following year, 2015, brought more challenges as JCPenney, another anchor tenant, announced its departure from Inlet Square Mall. This move was a significant blow to the mall, stripping it of another major draw for shoppers and signaling a critical need for strategic reorientation.

In the face of these setbacks, Inlet Square Mall sought to reinvent its tenant mix and attract new businesses. 2015 saw the introduction of Planet Fitness, which took over the space formerly occupied by Ladies’ Choice Fitness Center.

This addition was a strategic move, tapping into the growing health and wellness trend and aiming to attract a different demographic to the mall. Furthermore, Stein Mart, a junior anchor, faced its challenges, leading to its closure due to lease issues.

However, demonstrating resilience and adaptability, Stein Mart relocated to the South Strand Commons shopping center near Surfside Beach, with its new location opening in October 2015.

The departure of key tenants underscored the need for a strategic rethink, prompting the mall to explore new avenues and partnerships to retain relevance in an increasingly competitive market.

As Inlet Square Mall moved through this challenging decade, its story became one of adaptation and perseverance, reflecting the broader narrative of change and evolution in the retail sector.

The narrative of Inlet Square Mall is not only defined by its commercial endeavors but also by a series of legal and financial challenges that marked its history.

A significant episode in this saga unfolded on October 13, 2013, when Murrells Retail Associates, mall owners, initiated legal action against Frank Theaters.

The lawsuit stemmed from repeated lease payment delays by the theater chain, culminating in a substantial debt of over $200,000 in unpaid rent.

The legal battle escalated as the mall’s owners sought to enforce the terms of a 20-year lease agreement signed in 2011, demanding the acceleration of nearly $24 million in payments. This move underscored the severity of the dispute and its financial implications for both parties.

The legal entanglements were further complicated by the sudden and unannounced closure of Frank Theaters and CineBowl on May 14, 2016.

After a five-year tenure, this termination of operations left the mall without one of its key entertainment attractions, exacerbating its challenges in maintaining foot traffic.

Inlet Square Mall
Inlet Square Mall – JCPenney” by MikeKalasnik is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The financial landscape of Inlet Square Mall was further destabilized by the actions of RAIT Financial Trust, which led to significant losses for West C Street Holdings, LLC.

The trust’s mismanagement included failing to pay rent to their landlord, West C Street Holdings, for four months starting in June 2018, despite collecting rent from mall tenants.

This situation was compounded by the misappropriation of tenant security deposits and the skipping of property taxes.

The legal resolution of these issues came in 2020 when Horry County Court ruled in favor of West C Street Holdings, acknowledging the debt of $510,000 owed by RAIT Financial Trust.

The trajectory of Inlet Square Mall took a definitive turn towards decline as the challenges of the previous decade and the COVID-19 pandemic culminated in its eventual closure.

Once a bustling hub of activity and commerce, the mall faced an inevitable downturn, with its tenant base dwindling and its corridors growing quieter.

The culmination of this downward spiral was marked by the mall’s official closure on January 15, 2024, a date that signaled the end of an era for Inlet Square Mall and the Garden City community.

Redevelopment Plans and Community Hopes

The narrative of Inlet Square Mall entered a new chapter with the property’s acquisition by Inlet Square Investments LLC in February 2023. This marked the beginning of a transformative journey, with the new owners envisioning a radical site redevelopment.

The ambitious plan involved a substantial demolition of 70% to 80% of the existing mall structure, paving the way for constructing new buildings and significant site improvements.

This bold initiative reshaped a physical space and reimagined the mall’s role and impact within the community.

The redevelopment plans gained momentum with the revelation on October 9, 2023, that the project would introduce a fresh architectural and commercial landscape to the area.

The commitment to retain key tenants such as Planet Fitness and Belk signaled a strategic blend of continuity and change, ensuring that the mall’s legacy elements would merge seamlessly with the new developments.

The anticipation surrounding the official announcement of the project details underscored the community’s engagement and interest in the mall’s future.

The approval process for the redevelopment project involved critical steps, including the endorsement by the Horry County Administration Committee on November 28, 2023.

This approval reflected a collective aspiration to revitalize the local economy and attract more visitors, highlighting the project’s significance beyond its commercial dimensions.

The committee’s decision also addressed concerns about traffic and infrastructure, emphasizing a comprehensive approach to redevelopment that considers the broader implications for the community.

The journey of Inlet Square Mall’s redevelopment is a testament to the dynamic interplay between commercial interests, community aspirations, and urban planning.

As the project moves through the necessary reviews and approvals, the anticipation and hopes of the Garden City community are intertwined with the mall’s transformation, marking a new phase in the mall’s storied history and its role within the fabric of the area.

A New Vision for Inlet Square Mall

The vision for the future of Inlet Square Mall took a concrete shape with the involvement of Paramount Development Corporation, a key player in the mall’s transformation journey.

The company’s plans, unveiled in December 2023, outline a comprehensive redevelopment strategy that promises to redefine the mall’s identity and utility.

Inlet Square Mall
Inlet Square Mall” by MikeKalasnik is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The ambitious project aims to convert the 500,000 sq ft enclosed mall into a 250,000 sq ft mixed-use development, a bold move signaling a shift towards a more integrated and multifaceted commercial and residential space.

The redevelopment plan strongly emphasizes residential development in addition to commercial spaces. The project envisions the creation of a multi-family parcel of land, approximately 13.5 acres in size, featuring eight three-story buildings.

Each building will house 24 units and amenities such as a pool, clubhouse, and dog park, offering a comprehensive living experience.

This residential component is not just about adding housing options but about creating a community within the mall’s footprint, fostering a sense of belonging and engagement among residents.

The timeline for the redevelopment is set with an expected completion date in the Spring of 2025. This deadline underscored the project’s ambitious pace and the commitment of all stakeholders to see the transformation through.

As Inlet Square Mall embarks on this new phase, the blend of commercial, retail, and residential elements in the redevelopment plan promises to breathe new life into the area, turning the mall into a vibrant and multifunctional space that resonates with the needs and aspirations of the Garden City community.

The Road Ahead: Challenges and Opportunities

As Inlet Square Mall embarks on its ambitious redevelopment journey, the road ahead is paved with challenges and opportunities.

The project’s progression is contingent upon navigating a series of regulatory and logistical hurdles, starting with the crucial approval process by the Horry County Council.

The redevelopment plan, which is detailed and multifaceted in scope, requires the council to pass three readings, a procedural step that underscores the importance of consensus and compliance with local governance.

Beyond the immediate challenges, the redevelopment of Inlet Square Mall presents many opportunities. The mall’s transformation into a mixed-use development aligns with contemporary urban planning trends, emphasizing the integration of commercial, residential, and recreational spaces.

As the project progresses, the community’s anticipation and support are palpable. The redevelopment of Inlet Square Mall is seen not just as a revival of commercial space but as a catalyst for broader regional growth and transformation.

Though fraught with challenges, the journey ahead promises to turn the mall into a landmark of innovation and community engagement, setting a precedent for future redevelopment projects in the region.

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Comments: 18
  1. Avatar of Disappointing. Nothing new.
    Disappointing. Nothing new.

    As one of the many thousands of local residents, I am anxious to find out what is currently happening with MI mall (who’s currently there, their lease agreements, ….) and what’s planned for this mall. I am very disappointed this article did not provide any new information, only the history. I have little interest in that.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      I share your desire for more timely news. Knowing more about what’s happening now and the future plans for the local mall is of utmost importance for all of us.

  2. Avatar of B. Bader
    B. Bader

    I absolutely LOVED Inlet Square Mall. It was closer to home than having to trek all the way to Grand Strand Mall (which I was very disappointed in). Both my husband and I especially loved Steinmart. I sincerely hope they can find a way to rejuvenate it. I know a lot of people in Pawleys Island who would support it. This area is growing by leaps and bounds. Maybe it’s time to try something again.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      It’s heartening to hear your positive perspective. Your comment gives hope that Inlet Square Mall could again be a favorite local spot with the right changes.

  3. Avatar of Nancy

    It would be great to have the mall revitalized again. Bring in the stores and people will come! Hamerick’s would be great here! They could be an anchor store. JCPenney offered a good variety of things for the home and clothes. Things were affordable when using coupons and rewards. I’m not sure though about the future of JCP has a whole. A food court would be great not only for employees, but folks walking through. Coffee shops like Cinnabon you can sit to enjoy your coffee and a sweet. Have indoor playgrounds for the kids. A parent can shop while one watches the kids. A movie theater would be nice again. Teen clothes shops, no video games for the kids to hang because it brings trouble. They need to enjoy outside! Hey dude shop which seems popular, tshirt shop, Belk is expensive, but maybe bring in a medium priced chain like Kohls. PI, MI, Garden City, Litchfield, Socastee, Surfside, and more support this mall as well as tourists. Some local shops would be great if maybe a discounted rent could apply. Happenings in a mall always brings crowds like fashion shows, bands, even dog adoptions in the mall on occasion to help our local shelters! Pet stores are always a must and maybe a Dollar store too. Oh the possibilities! Please someone step up to help this mall thrive again! It isn’t just a Northerner who may want this, but locals too! I hear it all the way down from Georgetown! I know they would love some mall shopping. I do think though our roads must plan for this first with all the growth going on! Make it happen!

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      I really enjoyed reading your comment. Your enthusiasm is infectious! It’s great to see someone so passionate about revitalizing the mall. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  4. Avatar of Michael Casella
    Michael Casella

    We moved to Murrells Inlet in 1999 and visited the mall for K-Mart and the Food Court as well as the smaller stores. Can not believe what must be owed with the loss of the anchor tenants. I can see a mixed use sie with retail, restaurant and residential housing. Great location between two major highways and tremendous parking lot. Something has to give-too valuable to remail mostly vacant.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      I agree with you. The area has much to offer, and it’s hard to imagine it remaining vacant for long. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  5. Avatar of Fran Dambrosio
    Fran Dambrosio

    When Toyrus closed it hurt lots of families with buying toys and clothes. Many families have come to live here and stores for children are gone. Kidsrus or some kind of children clothing stores would be great. It’s so nice new and clean inside parking is huge but road needs improvement. I shop at Belk which is nice and convenient. Instead of driving up to Grand strand.
    But please no more HOUSING. WE are suffocating with that already. Even small stores would be great.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for telling the needs of the community. Your message about the lack of children’s stores is spot-on. Insights on housing and road conditions are also very enlightening.

  6. Avatar of debi odell
    debi odell

    We loved that mall! Spinacers was the best restaurant with flowerpot bread. Shopping was fantastic. Everything you needed was in one place. Surely there are investors who can bring it back. Make it special and different. I’d love to help plan it. Don’t give up on it now.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories of Inlet Square Mall! Spinacers does indeed sound like a magical place. Your enthusiasm for the mall’s revival is heartening to see.

  7. Avatar of Tracey

    why don’t they close it and tear it down. I used to shop at Inlet Mall also, but it’s really gone down hill. The old mall off 501 is even worst. We need to clean up the Myrtle Beach area and it surrounding areas to bring in more revenue.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      I appreciate your perspective. It’s clear that you care deeply about the Myrtle Beach area. A well-planned redevelopment could potentially attract more visitors and boost the local economy.

  8. Avatar of Lynette Carothers
    Lynette Carothers

    I loved that mall. At it’s prime it had everything! The only place you needed to drive was the grocery store.
    I would love to see it reopen as a “locals” mall open for the area from GC to GT. I have tried Grand Strand, it isn’t for locals it’s for the tourist trade. The same with the bases shops. Market Commons. That area reminds me of a modern Seaboard Street!
    Since we will never see the marsh and forest back there, a new design for the mall. Anything to get local business back, jobs, the atmosphere, a local gathering place.
    Anything to slow the internet shopping. Sadly there is no local gathering when we order everything from Amazon and get our groceries delivered from Walmart.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      I appreciate your nostalgic reflection on Inlet Square Mall and your hope for its future. Thank you for expressing your thoughts on how it could become a hub for the local community once more.

  9. Avatar of Kathy Heath
    Kathy Heath

    Retail, restaurants and entertainment will be great.
    No more residential/ housing please!
    Inlet Square Mall was a treasure, succombing to poor management. Resurrect what the residents of the south end want and need. It certainly can be done!

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Inlet Square Mall holds a special place in the hearts of the community. Focusing on retail, restaurants, and entertainment could indeed breathe new life into the area, catering to residents’ desires and needs.

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