OCOEE, Fla. - Only Eyewitness News is getting a look at how a struggling shopping mall in west Orange County is getting turned around.
The West Oaks Mall on Colonial Drive in Ocoee was just bought by a new management company after years of the mall losing stores.
One wing had five vacant storefronts, and the mall is 40 percent empty.
Mall walker Joanne Salvati has seen those stores leave
one by one over the years. "A lot of the stores went over to the Winter Garden mall," Salvati said.
The city said a lot of it had to do with the old management.
"We actually flew to the VP of the old management group and he point-blank said to me and an elected official that he really didn't care about this mall," Ocoee
Assistant City Manager Craig Shadrix said.
Shawl Pryor and his company, Moonbeam Capital Investments,
took over the mall a couple of months ago. They already have a company lined up for the old Sears building, but the mall won't say which store yet because it's not finalized.
Turning the mall around goes beyond filling up empty storefronts.
Last year, Skywitness 9 HD was over the mall after a woman and her child were ambushed by a man with a stun gun.
"How are you going to address the issue of security here at the mall?" asked Channel 9's Racquel Asa.
"Through our relationship with the city of
Ocoee, we have been able to convince them to bring in their community relations office, and when I say bring in, they are going to relocate here to the West Oaks Mall," Pryor said.
The company said the stores won't fill overnight, but they plan to have six new business in by the end of the year. It said they will be bringing in stores that are different from those in Winter Garden Village.