By Jenna Zibton, WSLS reporter
We’re told Liberty University has been in talks for several months about buying this space. Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. says he hopes they can work with the city, and turn it into a civic center.
Falwell Jr. says the purchase price was $6.9 million dollars, includes about 112,000 square feet of space, and about 700 parking spaces. A space that large with parking would have cost Liberty much more to build Falwell added, so this purchase made financial sense.
Falwell says he wants the civic center to be owned by the city of Lynchburg, much like the Roanoke Civic Center, and Liberty Univ. would be the anchor tenant. The school would use the center for school basketball games, and other events throughout the year.
“A new civic center here would bring in new business, new companies. It would help Liberty grow. We think it would be a real economic benefit to the city,” Falwell states. “I really hope the city seizes on this opportunity and doesn’t let it go by.”
The other option would be to bring in the university’s online call centers, and other operations that don’t have to be on campus, freeing up more classroom space. It would still bring traffic to the existing mall stores.
“Either way, no matter which way we go, there will be more people there. I think it will be good for all of the stores in the mall to have another vibrant, exciting use that brings in a lot of people everyday,” Falwell believes. “I just don’t see where it could be a negative for anybody, but we’ll see how it goes.”
He stressed that Liberty’s talks with Sears have been confidential, so they haven’t been able to talk to Lynchburg City leaders about this. The plans all depend on what the city says.
It’s also not clear how fast any of this would happen, because Liberty needs to talk with the city. Falwell says this was all possible, because Sears 32-year retail operating agreement ends in February, and the space could then be used for other purposes. He says the other anchor stores all signed 45 year agreements.