Local News

International shopping center on hold in Morrisville

Posted July 11, 2012 4:12 p.m. EDT
Updated July 12, 2012 2:03 p.m. EDT

— Morrisville Prime Outlets was slated to begin its transformation into Chinatown North Carolina, an Asian-themed destination mall, in May. However, the near-vacant mall by Raleigh-Durham International Airport is still standing, and the owners are looking for a new developer.

Mark Herman, the original developer, had plans to fill Chinatown with Asian restaurants, businesses and a cultural center under new pagoda roofs. Herman was supposed to purchase the outlet mall in April, but owners say he failed to come up with the money and fulfill his part of the contract.

Ben Hitchings, the planning director for the town of Morrisville, said town staff met with Herman in February to discuss plans for the mall, but his developing company, Panda Properties Sino, never submitted any formal site plans to the town.

While searching for a new developer, owners have decided to incorporate more international elements to the mall. They are still planning on calling it Chinatown, even though it could have businesses and restaurants with non-Chinese influences.

"We definitely feel this is the right direction to go for the re-use of the mall. We're working toward that goal," said Prateek Chandak, who co-owns the mall with his father.

Chandak said the area's demographics, which include a strong Asian and South Asian population, will make Chinatown a great fit for the region and a lucrative use of the site.

"The concept is still very much alive. We feel it's still a very viable project," he said.

Lian Xie, a spokesman for the Carolina China Council, said Chinese investors are still going forward with the project, despite developer delays. The council is a nonprofit organization that promotes business between China and the Carolinas.

"We have to have something special where people want to go and cannot find in another place," Xie said.

Developers from California, Florida and Boston have expressed interest in the shopping center. Chandak said he and his father have been busy meeting with investors and developers, adding that such important negotiations will take time.