Jonathan Stewart of Northwood Retail LLC said the pandemic has severely affected the majority of the mall's tenants.
"Effective immediately, we have made the decision to permanently cease operations at the Interior of the Northgate Mall," he said.
Northwood, which bought the mall in 2018, already had plans to clear tenants out in December to transform the shopping center into something more like North Hills in Raleigh. But, the current tenants, like Shea Ramirez, who operates three businesses at Northgate, from a talent agency to a recording studio, say they had no idea this was coming in May.
Northgate Shop Owners Shocked
"I cried all day Friday," Ramirez said. "It's, 'You need to get your things out and you have to go,' in the middle of a worldwide virus that we have no control over. To me, that was just heartbreaking."
FULL CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE
Mavis Peaks has owned and operated Endivo Hair Gallery at Northgate for the past decade. Now, she's scrambling to find new retail space at the absolute worst time.
"We are in a state of shock," Peaks said. "How are we gonna survive, with the pandemic and everything going on to find something quickly?"
Built in 1960, Northgate Mall was a social and shopping hub for generations of Durhamites, including Ramirez, whose first job as a first-year student at NC Central in 1991 was at the Rack Room Shoes here.
"(Northgate) was thriving. It was just the place to be. It was just an amazing mall," Ramirez said.
But if Northgate was a patient, it also had its share of pre-existing conditions: decreasing storefronts and changing shopper habits. COVID-19 proved to be the death blow; dashing the hopes of owners such as Ramirez who stuck it out until the end.
"So we're thinking this (revitalization plan) is gonna be good for us. Hmm, no," Ramirez said.
City Council Weighs In
Northgate's permanent closure was a topic at Monday night's Durham City Council meeting. Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton used his time at the top of the session to call on the developers at Northwood Retail to use what Middleton called the company's "considerable resources" to assist merchants with relocation costs.
“We are in a state of shock.”— Joel Brown (@JoelBrownABC11) May 5, 2020
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Store owners at Durham’s long-struggling Northgate Mall are speaking out about the news that the mall’s temporary #COVID shutdown is now permanent. #abc11 pic.twitter.com/3qX20gf74V
"We understand this is difficult news and want to assure our tenants and the community that this decision was not made lightly," Stewart said. "We are committed to working with our tenants to provide relief for the duration of their leases and are connecting them with local small business support services."