• Osceola mall's Latino-themed makeover draws mixed reactions


    OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - The Osceola Square Mall has new life but not everyone is happy about it.
    The mall on Vine Street in Kissimmee has been replaced with a Latino-themed shopping center. Some residents are turning to social media to complain.
    But some shop owners told Channel 9 anchor Nancy Alvarez that the change is just smart business.
    Over the past few years those driving past the mall have seen a parking lot with few cars, but on Monday the lot was nearly full, and Alvarez saw crowds of people going in and out of the mall.
    Most central Floridians have probably never heard of Bettina, but Yancey Cabassa said they soon will.
    "It's been on the market over 30 years in Puerto Rico," said Cabassa.
    The cosmetics line is new to central Florida.
    Plaza del Sol – the new name for the Osceola Square Mall – has decor, signs and merchandise that is designed to look and feel like shoppers are somewhere in Latin America.
    But not everyone is thrilled to see the Latin America concept replace the 27-year-old Osceola Square Mall.
    On Facebook one person commented: "I should be able to know what a store is by reading the sign in English!!! Have your culture, just stop cramming it down my throat!!!!"
    Another wrote: "Are non-Spanish speakers feeling welcome? I think not!"
    "Change is difficult for people," said mall director Suzanna Fernandez.
    Fernandez said the mall's doors are open to everyone and the change was simply a smart business move. 
    "Forty-nine percent of Osceola County is Hispanic and the number is growing.
    "It's just truly doing that niche to remind them of home, where there's life and excitement. It's catering to something different to what the average mall has been," said Fernandez.
    Leases for small spaces at the mall start at $500 a month -- a low price that's giving more small-business owners opportunities.
    So far only a quarter of the mall has been transformed but mall officials believe there's plenty of room for this concept to grow.
    "The concept is not to exclude anyone. We invite everyone," said Fernandez.

    Just about everything and everyone in the new mall is bilingual.

    There were also a number of Facebook comments that welcomed the makeover, many saying the mall was in need of change.

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