DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Northgate Mall will close permanently, the company that owns the mall announced Monday, citing "extreme financial difficulties" due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jonathan Stewart of Northwood Retail LLC said the pandemic has severely affected the majority of the mall's tenants.
"Effective immediately, we have made the decision to permanently cease operations at the Interior of the Northgate Mall," he said.
Northwood, which bought the mall in 2018, already had plans to clear tenants out in December to transform the shopping center into something more like North Hills in Raleigh. But, the current tenants, like Shea Ramirez, who operates three businesses at Northgate, from a talent agency to a recording studio, say they had no idea this was coming in May.
"I cried all day Friday," Ramirez said. "It's, 'You need to get your things out and you have to go,' in the middle of a worldwide virus that we have no control over. To me that was just heartbreaking."
Mavis Peaks has owned and operated Endivo Hair Gallery at Northgate for the past decade. Now, she's scrambling to find new retail space at the absolute worst time.
"We are in a state of shock," Peaks said. "How are we gonna survive, with the pandemic and everything going on to find something quickly?"
Built in 1960, Northgate Mall was a social and shopping hub for generations of Durhamites, including Ramirez, whose first job as a first year student at NC Central in 1991 was at the Rack Room Shoes here.
"(Northgate) was thriving. It was just the place to be. It was just an amazing mall," Ramirez said.
But if Northgate was a patient, it also had its share of pre-existing conditions: decreasing storefronts and changing shopper habits. COVID-19 proved to be the death blow; dashing the hopes dashed of owners like Ramirez who stuck it out until the end.
"So we're thinking this (revitalization plan) is gonna be good for us. Hmm, no," Ramirez said.
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