Hilton Head Island Town Council would be willing to swap land and allow construction of residential units if that's what it takes to begin redevelopment of the Mall at Shelter Cove next year.
However, not all of its members were enthusiastic about the possibility.
A new owner's plans to revitalize the languishing shopping center were well-received by the town's Planning Commission Nov. 16. Council, however, was less pleased with the plans Thursday.
The council met at the Best Western Sea Island Inn in Beaufort for the first of a three-day, strategic-planning workshop to set next year's priorities.
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Members said starting the new development is a top goal, but some had reservations about conceptual plans for the property.
"I don't think it's a great plan, and part of me is reluctant to tell them we should do it," said Ward 3 Councilman Lee Edwards.
A real estate affiliate of The Kroger Co. purchased the 42-acre property and 300,000-square-foot mall Aug. 10 for about $17.3 million, almost $7 million below its assessed market value and less than half of its original sale price, according to Beaufort County property records.
Drawings call for tearing down much of the mall, with the exception of the Belk department store, and turning the property into a walking village of shops.
A Kroger grocery store would serve as a secondary anchor and be located next to Belk in an attempt to attract more shoppers to the center, according to Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial of Augusta, Ga., a partner on the project. That firm also will manage the site.
About 250,000-square-feet of new retail space, more open space and 220 apartments overlooking Broad Creek are planned.
It is the second attempt to remake the mall, which skirted foreclosure last year and lost stores to closures or moves off-island to the Tanger Outlets in Bluffton.
Edwards said he'd like to see the Belk torn down, the Kroger cut in half and a proposed gas station at the entrance to the property off William Hilton Parkway eliminated.
Ward 2 Councilman Bill Harkins questioned placing a new Kroger store at the site when Walmart is adding a grocery, Piggly Wiggly is sits next to the mall and Harris Teeter is expanding its store near Sea Pines plantation.
The new plan would require swapping 4.5 acres of town land at Shelter Cove Community Park for about 6 acres of mall property, which would become a waterfront park with a promenade, boardwalks and pavilions overlooking the marsh.
The Town Council also would have to rezone the property to allow residential use.
Mayor Drew Laughlin worries council members' reservations and competing community interests will delay -- and ultimately sink -- the project.
"The owner wants to move forward on it as quickly as possible. I see little (use) in spending time on plans by folks who don't control the property," Laughlin said. "The last thing I want to see is for the first major redevelopment project to come through our process and the developer walks away from it frustrated."
The workshop resumes today at 8:30 a.m.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.