Answer Man: What's up with Innsbruck Mall? Any plans for old Sears site?

·5 min read

Today’s batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers, and the real deal:

Question: My husband and I were at the Asheville Mall on a recent morning. We drove around the back so we could enter the ridiculously separated Dillard’s. We were struck by how awful the mall is looking. The pavement is in disrepair and the landscaping is dead or dying. Is anything going to be done with this mall? I thought the Sears building (store and automotive center) were sold for a lot of money. Who bought it and what is the plan? While I am annoying you with mall questions, let me throw in one about Innsbruck Mall. I see it was power washed recently. Does that mean that Ingles is not going to knock the mall down and build something new?  Both malls are downright scary and an embarrassment! Also, what is the story with Plasma Biological Services?

My answer: With Innsbruck Mall, it remains a popular tourist attraction for its incredibly realistic 1960 time capsule display titled: "Innsbruck Mall, 1960: Frozen in Time. Forever." And yes, it looks like the former Sears is vying for a 1980 time capsule vibe.

Real answer: I'll start with the city of Asheville Planning Department, as it would get any permits or applications for these sites. Chris Collins, Planning & Development Division manager with the city, answered the queries.

"The city hasn't received any new applications for development at the old Sears building," Collins said via email. "The redevelopment plan application that you reference for the mall was never acted upon and expired in March of 2020. The city also hasn't received any applications for development at the Innsbruck Mall site."

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On the mall site, we did write quite a bit about a $45 million proposal for the old Sears building that would have comprised a six-story apartment building, five one-story retail buildings, and a movie theater. Seritage SRC Finance LLC was the developer behind that project, but as Collins noted, that planned expired in 2020.

It looks like Seritage completely got out of the game, as Buncombe County tax records indicate the owner of the former Sears building is now MCG Asheville Owner LLC. The 15.61-acre site and building have an appraised tax value of $9.5 million.

Records indicate the property was transferred on Dec. 17, 2021, from Seritage to MCG Asheville Owner LLC. I tried tracking down the registered agent for MCG, Joe F. Teague Jr., but I was not able to get up with him.

The closed Sears store at the Asheville Mall.
The closed Sears store at the Asheville Mall.

As the reader noted, we also have written about Ingles acquiring the Innsbruck Mall property. In fact, I wrote a news story about it in August 2020, noting a company associated with Ingles Markets, Sky King Inc., bought the Innsbruck Mall property on Tunnel Road for $8.3 million, according to Buncombe County deed records.

Sky King Inc. is a North Carolina Corporation whose address is 2913 U.S. 70 in Black Mountain, the site of Ingles Markets corporate offices and distribution center.

Ingles did not get a warm reception from the city regarding plans it unveiled last year. As we reported then, the Innsbruck Mall site and existing Ingles store nearby are part of 40 acres that make up one of 11 areas targeted by Asheville for its Urban Centers Initiative, which wants to move development in the city away from plans like Ingles was proposing at the former mall.

A photo shared on Facebook in 2021 showed preliminary plans to redevelop the Innsbruck Mall site on Tunnel Road, owned by Ingles. The plans do not jibe with a new city zoning plan in the area, though.
A photo shared on Facebook in 2021 showed preliminary plans to redevelop the Innsbruck Mall site on Tunnel Road, owned by Ingles. The plans do not jibe with a new city zoning plan in the area, though.

A photo of Ingles plans shared on Facebook last September showed a rough layout of what Ingles had planned, "and garnered more than 200 comments on the Asheville Politics page, most panning a proposal that largely follows the big-box store archetype," as we reported. The plan lacked any housing but had a large grocery store, two 6,000-square foot retail buildings, and another building split between 21,800 square feet and 4,500 square feet of retail.

Plans called for another three-story, 105,000 square-foot building behind the grocery store.

"It is worth noting that the sites referenced were both part of the Urban Centers rezoning somewhat recently passed by (City) Council," Collins said this summer.

That zoning, as we reported last summer, aims to "rezone certain areas of the city to use space more efficiently by creating new zoning codes to move from large box stores with large parking lots to more pedestrian-friendly infill development with less dependence on cars."

Ingles Markets Chief Financial Officer Pat Jackson said via email Ingles is not going to comment on the site.

"As a matter of policy, unfortunately, we cannot discuss possible future plans for individual locations until actual construction begins," Jackson said. "There are too many variables with zoning, weather, and availability of construction resources."

Built-in 1966, the 213,00-square-foot Innsbruck Mall dominates a section of Tunnel Road. The ground-level storefronts are occupied, but the multistory mall building has been largely empty for years.

One of those ground-level operations is Plasma Biological Services Asheville, which the reader asked about. That operation, as the name implies, is a plasma donation center that collects blood plasma and distributes it for medical purposes.

It remains open and in operation, a worker said on Aug. 10.

This is the opinion of John Boyle. To submit a question, contact him at 232-5847 or jboyle@citizen-times.com

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Answer Man: Any Innsbruck Mall action? What about the old Sears site?