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Ashley Landing, when it was opened as Ashley Plaza Mall in 1972, was the area's first fully enclosed and air-conditioned shopping center in the Lowcountry. Its 40 stores were connected by two indoor promenades.

The last time Ashley Landing saw any major updates was just after Hurricane Hugo, when its name was changed from Ashley Plaza Mall.

The large retail center in West Ashley is now getting another big makeover - its first in nearly 25 years - which will include new landscaping and lighting, improved storefronts and eventually a few more tenants.

Charlotte-based Faison Enterprises saw potential in the aging shopping center on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and bought it in January for $19.2 million from Ashley Plaza Mall Associates, who had owned it since 1974, according to property records.

"We love the location and the market, and we think it has strong near-term and long-term prospects. But it's going to be a gradual process," said David Lampke, managing director of acquisitions with Faison.

The first order of business was to acquire the vacant property along Sumar Street to gain control over both entry points of the shopping center, Lampke said. Faison purchased the former Northbridge Piggly Wiggly store and the surrounding 2.5 acres of land July 18 for $1.95 million from Newton Land Corp.

"The acquisition of the Sumar property will complement our investment in Ashley Landing. We are currently exploring a number of different scenarios for this property," said Bill Barnett, managing director of Faison.

Meanwhile, the company plans to renovate all the storefronts in the center, and it will redesign the landscaping to make the area look more inviting. When all the construction is complete in the next six months to a year, the company hopes Ashley Landing's new look will eventually draw interest from new tenants.

The retail hub is almost fully occupied with businesses such as Burlington Coat Factory and Big Lots, and while Faison recognizes the value of those businesses, Lampke said that overall, the company is "not convinced that the property serves the local community as well as it should. ... We don't know that the tenant mix meets the demand of the local community."

The company is proposing to build small outparcel units along Sam Rittenberg, which most likely would be occupied by retailers or restaurants. Edie DuBose of Adams and Wilson Development will handle the leasing of those units.

"We have been pleased with the level of interest from various local and national restaurant and retail groups for the outparcels, and we believe the possible construction of 1,500-8,750 (square foot) retail units along Sam Rittenberg will also be well-received by the market," she said.

Faison's plan for Ashley Landing fits into the city's long-term project, called the West Ashley Economic Development Strategy, to rejuvenate West Ashley's environment for retail and other public spaces. For years, other suburbs such as Mount Pleasant and Summerville have generally outpaced West Ashley in terms of attracting big retail developments.

In the coming years, the city plans to set aside funds to improve landscaping and road infrastructure in West Ashley, which, the city hopes, will attract more developers like Faison.

"There will be some more significant additions to Ashley Landing that will really completely change the sense of that shopping center," city planner Tim Keane said. "They're looking at similar neighborhood centers around the Southeast that have become revitalized, and that's their desire for Ashley Landing."

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail