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WHAT WE THINK: Shelby County's outlet mall needs to succeed

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All those dire fears about the bad side of this project will erupt in reality if the Outlet Shoppes of Lousiville doesn't thrive.

The spats and the horror now can be put behind us, and it’s time for all of us to unite and focus on the next big thing in our community:
An outlet mall is being built in Simpsonville.

That’s not news, we realize – certainly not to those homeowners who will live in proximity to this 374,000-square-foot enterprise – but the truth of the matter is that the opening next year of the Outlet Shoppes of Louisville creates an important milestone in the evolution of our Shelby County.

Not all of you, we realize, see this as a positive milestone. Some of you have warned about allowing this mall and have lobbied hard and well against it for the appropriate reasons: environmental impact, congestion of traffic, potential crime, lifestyle changes, property values and, most prominently, a fear of its failure.

Others of you have embraced the idea, noting the potential for hundreds of new jobs, the growth that could follow its construction and, not to be ignored, easier access to snazzy labels and wares and potentially affordable prices.

This mall will be a test to see if Shelby County is ready for a big retail establishment. Those residents who for years have lobbied to have a grocery store on the West End of the county won’t be getting that just now, but certainly success or failure of this mall will determine if and when that could happen.

If this mall attracts tourists, as its business plan suggests, Shelby County’s tourism income could take a big leap. The mall could begat restaurants and maybe a new hotel at Exit 28, and Simpsonville and Shelby County would have a new platform on which to market their historic, equine and antique assets and expand that image as a destination for tourists, not just a gas-and-lunch and see-a-pretty-horse stop outside Louisville.

Government leaders surely have dollar signs in their eyes, with a new line of real estate and occupational taxes. Utilities will have powerful new revenue streams. There will be new cash flows that could fund new services to the public.

How all of these pluses and minuses actually add up will take a few years to calculate, but there is one element among all of those that is the most important for all of us: the potential that this project would fail.

We, as a county, simply can’t abide for the Outlet Shoppes of Louisville to be anything but a success. We need a victory for this venture. There is no good to having this go bad.

Even those who have opposed this project can’t revel if it fails, because failure after opening is much, much worse than any of those perceived immediate negatives. Failure means that all those enumerated problems will be fruition, all in one fail swoop.

So we suggest that now is the time for everyone to come together on this project, to raise it in hope and even prayer that it succeeds against a record of failures of such malls in other markets. Join hands and sing “Kumbaya,” if you would.

We will be watching, along with you and the rest of the state and even some of the nation.

Horizon Group Properties thinks this is a smart play. The analysts say it’s a smart play. Our decision makers barely blinked in endorsing it as a smart play for Shelby County.

Let’s hope all of them are right.