Welcome to new owner of important retail center

When the Mall at Shelter Cove opened in the mid-1980s, it was a high water mark for retail business on Hilton Head Island.

It was upscale, it was new, it was the place to be.

Over the years, the mall brought consumers standard offerings like Banana Republic and JCPenney, along with the unusual, like Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th.

But as its long-hoped-for renewal is announced, it seems that the only thing keeping the lights on is the old faithful -- Belk.

New ownership and new plans for the central-island location are as welcome today as the mall's original announcement.

It was announced last week that the 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.

This means that Kroger will enter the Hilton Head market, complementing its location in Bluffton.

But it also hopefully means that the almost ghostlike enclosed mall will be replaced with something fresh, new, exciting -- and successful.

Plans have not been submitted to the Town of Hilton Head Island, but discussions have been taking place for many months on what could be done with the land.

From those conversations we know that Belk will stay in its current two locations, but the rest of the mall would pretty much be removed and redeveloped as a "walking village of shops," the town's community development director said.

He compares its potential new feel to that of Main Street Village on the north end, "but to a larger scale with a Kroger, public green space and apartments along the marsh of Broad Creek."

It's a beautiful piece of land, with a community park, Palmetto Dunes Resort, Shelter Cove Harbour, the Plaza at Shelter Cove and the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina among its neighbors.

New life is always an exhilarating thing, and renewal of Hilton Head's commercial offerings is needed.

We urge the town to make this project the poster child for its new effort to guide developers more efficiently through the maze of permitting. It would seem that enough due diligence has been done by the buyer for the town to help it meet its goal to start construction in the spring and be ready to open by early 2013.