While White Oaks Mall lost two anchor stores with the closings of Sears and Bergner’s in 2018, plans are already underway to redevelop the 125,000-square-foot space previously occupied by Bergner’s. Simon Property Group, the parent company that owns and operates White Oaks Mall, purchased the space after it failed to sell at auction earlier this year.

On July 17, the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to hear a petition for rezoning that would allow both indoor and outdoor automotive sales on the lower level of the former Bergner’s space. While dealerships have held temporary sales in various locations at White Oaks Mall, the zoning variance would allow the space to be leased for that purpose.

According to general manager Clay Emerich, “The zoning petition has been filed in order to accommodate the Green Family stores on a temporary basis. Permanent development plans for this parcel are ongoing.” Emerich explained that the current zoning doesn’t allow automotive sales to take place for more than a few days at time.

In June 2018, Emerich addressed the Springfield City Council shortly after the announcement that Bergner’s and Sears would be closing. He noted that having two large vacancies presented an opportunity for the mall to expand beyond traditional retail stores. Ward 7 alderman Joe McMenamin, who represents the area, said last week that he is aware of discussions to convert the upper level of Bergner’s space into smaller spaces of “3000 to 4000-square-feet each with an emphasis on local and regional shops.”

McMenamin said, “Simon Properties has a successful track record of reconfiguring mall space for current trends, and retail diversity can help bring shoppers back, particularly in the winter time.”

While Emerich acknowledged there have been discussions to that effect, he said it was too soon for any type of announcement regarding the upper level of the former Bergner’s space. “Those are all ongoing plans; things change all the time.”