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Texas company purchases Rushmore Mall

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The Rushmore Mall is under new ownership and by early 2022 it will officially have a new name — Uptown Rapid.

RockStep Capital, a shopping center investment firm, took ownership of the mall on Monday. RockStep is based in Houston, Texas, and owns properties in 11 states. Those properties include Uptown Aberdeen, formerly the Aberdeen Mall, in eastern South Dakota.

RockStep’s president, Andy Weiner, said Wednesday that acquiring Rushmore Mall has been three years in the making. RockStep specifically targets properties in markets that have economic vitality.

“(Rushmore Mall) is a great property in a great location,” Weiner said. “Rapid City is the place to be. … It has things that are really propelling the city into a major growth spurt. You’ve got migration into the city, you’ve got growth in the military, you’ve got a major hospital system, and you have a lot of companies that want to grow their businesses in this region.”

RockStep’s plan is to transform the mall into a mixed-used property that’s updated inside and out, Weiner said. The first change will be renaming Rushmore Mall to Uptown Rapid. Signage with the new name should be up in about four months. By next year, Uptown Rapid should have a new façade and new roof work, and an upgrade to the food court is planned.

“Mall is no longer the right word for these types of properties. The mall is a 1970s, '80s, '90s concept,” Weiner said. “In a market like Rapid City, there is a downtown which is very vibrant, and the other area where commercial is located is called uptown.”

Online shopping and COVID-19 have changed the retail world and the need for traditional shopping malls. Uptown Rapid will retain retail businesses and wants to add more, Weiner said. The property will also house a variety of alternative-use attractions. Rushmore Mall has already begun diversifying by adding non-retail businesses such as Bar K-9, the city’s only indoor pet park and bar.

“There could be entertainment. We already have fitness (Planet Fitness and Live It Up Aerial Dance, Fitness and Events). There could be museums, hospitality. There could be hotels on the property. We do have interest from other retailers. It will become a mixed-use property that’s more associated with an uptown name,” Weiner said. “Typically on property of this size, it takes 18 to 36 months to bring in major new tenants.”

“These properties are going to transform from retail to activity-based uses,” he said.

Malls of the past were anchored by major department stores, and Rushmore Mall struggled in the wake of losing three of its anchors in recent years — Target, Herberger’s and Sears — although Weiner said there are currently few vacancies. RockStep will focus on attracting regional and local businesses.

“We are welcoming local and regional tenants that have a good marketing plan, and we’re doing deals,” Weiner said. “The first three deals we’re going to do are going to have free rent and low rent associated with them. We want to help local businesses have a chance to access this type of property.”

Interested business owners are encouraged to contact the mall’s general manager, Sandy Brockhouse, at manager@uptownrapid.com.

New ownership is giving Rushmore Mall and Brockhouse a fresh start. Though Rushmore Mall has been a shopping hub for the Black Hills since 1978, in 2018 the mall was in foreclosure with $100 million in unpaid loans. Carmen Spinoso, a Syracuse, N.Y.-based real estate investor, was appointed by the 7th Circuit Court in Pennington County to be the court-appointed manager of the property.

Brockhouse became Rushmore Mall’s leasing manager in 2018 and its general manager in 2019. During her tenure she’d worked to bring more local and diverse businesses to the mall. Brockhouse left in May to pursue her real estate license, but RockStep asked her to become Uptown Rapid’s general manager.

Brockhouse said RockStep’s core values and commitment to do the right thing appealed to her, as did the chance to be part of the innovation at Uptown Rapid.

“I’m extremely passionate about this center. Our community will be blessed by (Uptown Rapid) and the hands at work to bring it to fruition,” she said. “We are always encouraging people to reach out to us for events. We want this to be the community gathering place.”

“I am very passionate about this place and the tenants in here. I am always striving to make their business the best it can be because of what we offer them. When customers are coming in the doors, I also want them to have a great experience with a sense of community,” Brockhouse said.

Starting with the upcoming holiday season, Brockhouse said shoppers and tenants will experience more “hustle and bustle” and special events as Rushmore Mall begins to evolve into Uptown Rapid.

“We have so much potential here. We’ve just started scratching the surface,” she said. “There is so much untapped potential we are going to bring to our community that nobody else can offer. … It’s going to be epic.”

General Manager Sandy Brockhouse talks Wednesday about exciting changes coming to Rushmore Mall following a change in ownership.

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