BRADENTON, Fla. - Once a landmark, DeSoto Square Mall has gone the way many similar shopping complexes.
"It's empty. It’s an empty feeling," Lee Stanage told FOX 13.
He's seen the mall at its best and its worst.
"You had a lot of participation, you had a lot of crowds in here and you had food mart.”
The mall is now a shadow of itself, hanging on with a single restaurant, a few chain stores, and small businesses.
Barbara Randall does laps around the mall and remembers its better days.
"They would have fashion shows. It was a lot of activity," she remembered. "It was more family and I miss that."
While it can't bring back the past, a Sarasota-based firm Kimley-Horn and Associates believes it can breath new life into the decaying mall. Plans have been filed with Manatee County for a 360-unit residential lifestyle center, including residential garden homes, senior housing, a grocery store, and medical offices.
For now, the plans are only on paper. First, the mall owners must face a foreclosure trial.
"If this moves out or tears down, you have University [Mall], but that’s a nightmare going over there. This is convenient for us," said Stanage.
Revitalization plans were in the works years ago, but they fizzled out. Developers believe a complete transformation may be the best option. Feelings are mixed as some hold onto the past.
"If they close this down and we don’t have a mall anymore, it would hurt the area," said Randall.
The foreclosure trial for DeSoto Owners LLC will be held on Jan. 30 at 1:30 p.m. in Manatee County.