JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Regency Square Mall was sold earlier this month to a New York-based investment company, with many in the area hoping the new owners will be able to turn around the struggling shopping center.
Nearly two years ago, many argued that the new Best Bet Jacksonville poker room would have a negative impact on the area, but it has thrived.
When planning and construction of the poker room were ongoing, many people spoke out against the facility, arguing that it would bring in the wrong crowd and wouldn't fit in the area. Two years later, it is having a big impact in the Regency community.
"We are actually very bullish in the Regency area," Best Bet spokesman Michael Munz said. "We think that when we came in, we helped start to see some revitalization occur. There have been some other positives that have happened in the area, some other renovations in the area and other stores have opened."
With stores closing around it, business at Best Bet hasn't slowed since it opened. Across the street, the mall hasn't been so successful. Many, including Best Bet, hope its sale will boost the struggling shopping center, because they say when the mall thrives, the entire area does.
"We are actually really happy with the sale of the mall," Munz said. "I think that will bring an infusion of new ideas and increase capital in the area. I think that from a long-term standpoint, we are very positive of this area."
The things that were built around the mall were built because of the mall. With the mall suffering, they do, too.
Munz said even though the mall sale doesn't directly affect Best Bet, the long-term benefit of a successful mall is a big one.
"It's obvious that if the mall does have a resurgence, that it helps everybody," Munz said. "I think the mall's revitalization could have a greater impact on the community, so that is what we are looking forward to."
One of the concerns many had when Best Bet opened was that it would bring more crime to an area that didn't need it. But Munz said the poker room has done a lot of work to make sure that doesn't happen.
"We invested a lot here infrastructure-wise," he said. "You can see the changes externally that we have made in the parking lot. Inside, people have responded really well to that."
Even though the new mall owners haven't announced their plans for renovations or redevelopment of the mall, the folks at Best Bet have shown that businesses can thrive in the area, giving many living in the area hope that the mall can do the same.
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