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Boulevard at the Capital Centre Struggles With Economic, Safety Concerns
County police said car break-ins are the biggest problem facing the shopping center. In 2007, there were 40 reports of thefts from automobiles; in 2008, there were 101. Reports of assaults and robberies have declined over the past two years.
Some residents have raised concerns about whether the Sideline is operating as a restaurant or a nightclub, saying the latter is not in keeping with the atmosphere the mall hopes to create. Phil Lee, a community activist, said he has complained to his state legislator about the Sideline.
"The liquor board should be looking at revoking its permit," he said. The county liquor board has scheduled a hearing on whether the restaurant is complying with its permit.
Rosalyn Pugh, Arrington's attorney, said the Sideline is a restaurant that offers sports activities and music. "It is a sports bar, not a nightclub," she said. She would not comment on the homicide or the crowd the sports bar draws.
As he ate lunch recently in the Boulevard's food court, Greg Perry said the mall is just "not his environment." He patronizes the restaurants during the day but not at night because of the number of teenagers who hang around.
"And the problem is, teenagers will be teenagers," he said.
Gregory Holmes, who lives about five miles from the Boulevard, said he takes his 8- and 12-year-old sons to the restaurants and the movie theater at the mall but doesn't shop there. "We still have to travel outside of the county to spend our disposable income," he said. "The income is here, the rooftops are here, and yet we don't get the retail that we can support."
Inland officials said they review store leases when they expire to determine whether the property has a mix of tenants that caters to a variety of demographics. They said the mall's occupancy rate is about 85 percent.
Parks said that he understands concerns about the number of stores that accommodate younger crowds but that Inland is meeting customer demand.
"There is a large market for teenagers and tweens that can not be ignored," Parks said. "Studies have shown about $4 billion, and that's with a B, in sales from this age group."
He said the mall instituted a parental escort program last year to decrease loitering at night. Under the policy, security guards start asking teenagers unaccompanied by a parent or guardian for identification after 9 p.m. If the youth has no adult escort, he or she is asked to leave.
Kwasi Holman, president of the county's Economic Development Corporation, said his office is actively working with mall management and community members to find retailers to fill mall vacancies. Unfortunately, he said, most retailers are closing, not opening, stores.