By Wilson Walker

RICHMOND (KPIX) — Richmond’s Hilltop Mall has a new owner with plans to raze the million-square-foot structure and launch a massive redevelopment of the site. While neighbors have mixed feelings about the mall’s departure, what comes next is the big topic of discussion.

“We used to come up here as kids to the mall,” recalls Virgil Leonard. “Go to the movie theater, run around, final little girlfriends at the mall. That was the spot. It was just like any mall, anywhere else.”

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Leonard has fond memories of Hilltop Mall. He now lives right across the street, and he’s not ready to see it go.

“I’m almost thinking about chaining myself to the mall,” Leonard laughs. “Like ‘no, we want to keep them all as it was!’”

“Well, it’s going to be bittersweet,” says mall neighbor Bhavin Khatri. “I grew up going to the mall, but I think this area deserves something much more vibrant. The mall has been dead for over a decade.”

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Khatri is also president of his neighborhood association. He says a lot of people have been waiting to see the mall go for years, and it appears that is finally about to happen. Mega-developer Prologis has purchased the 77-acre property with plans to demolish the mall. The company says early designs for a replacement include housing, retail and entertainment, which neighbors have long supported.

“We’ve actually got a group called Revitalize Hilltop,” Khatri explains. “That’s our goal, it’s to bring a mixed use development here.”

But the group does not support the other component of the Prologis plan, which is an on-site distribution center. Neighbors point out that the area is already home to a handful of such operations. Amazon is right around the corner and already uses the mall parking lot to stage some of its delivery vehicles.

“We don’t want to see a distribution center,” Khatri says. “We’re hoping to see open space, retail, entertainment, and housing. Market rate and below market rate housing.”

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Richmond Mayor Tom Butt says planning is in the early stages, but his conversations with Prologis lead him to believe the company is open to redevelopment without the distribution center.