When Towne Square Mall Realty Holding LLC bought Towne Square Mall for $5.15 million this week, it put the 41-year-old shopping center in local hands for the first time since 1987.

On March 1, 1978, the mall saw an estimated 5,000 people lining up on opening day to see what was then western Kentucky's largest mall.

It was a destination.

And Ed Ray, chief operating officer for Gulfstream, thinks it can be again.

Gulfstream, which is part of the ownership group, will manage the mall.

Ray said, "I'd love to see a mix of medical, senior activities, athletics, retail and restaurants. But nothing is off the table."

A residential component, as some malls have added in recent years, is "not on our radar," he said.

Ray said he didn't expect any major announcement about plans until sometime next year.

"We're looking at everything," he said. "We want to create a destination on Frederica."

Ray said the interior of the mall could change depending on what new tenants need.

He said engineers are in the mall this week looking at such things as which walls are load-bearing and which could be removed if necessary.

"We're getting to know the existing tenants and looking at ways other malls have been revitalized," he said. "We're going to apply some of that here."

Ray said he has received a lot of emails from the community since Monday's announcement of the sale.

"The community has some really good ideas," he said.

Ray said, "Adding more places to eat is really important to support pedestrian traffic."

Ben's Soft Pretzels Prizza and Tre'Vione's New Orleans Finest Cuisines were announced earlier.

And Ray said at least one other restaurant plans to open in the mall.

The anchor tenants -- JC Penney and Macy's -- "are super partners," he said.

The other two anchors -- the former Sears and Burkes Outlet stores -- are now empty, as are about half of the other spaces in the mall.

Macy's owns its store, which was not part of the sale.

Gulfstream is developing Gateway Commons and Highland Pointe on Kentucky 54 and The Shoppes at 3800 Frederica on the old Texas Gas property.

It's also involved with several downtown projects and MidAmerica Jet.

"We get a lot of complaints about focusing on only one part of the community," Ray said of the focus on Kentucky 54.

But that's changing with the purchase of the mall.

Matt Hayden, Gulfstream's president, had tried to buy the mall several years ago.

Now that shopping centers on Frederica and Kentucky 54 are managed by the same team, Gulfstream can represent both sides of the city when it goes after tenants, Ray said.

He said Gulfstream representatives are in New York City this week talking to "a huge number of retailers about the mall and Kentucky 54."

Ray said Gulfstream plans to keep the mall's staff in place.

"We take care of our retail partners," he said.

There are no plans to change the mall's name, Ray said.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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