The new owner of Vista Ridge Mall has lots of ideas to make the shopping center attractive to families and even to people who don't care about shopping.
Odessa businessman John Bushman wants to turn the mall into a community space where people can find some "peace and love" in the Ten Commandments, hear local musicians perform and take in a giant wave of a 30- by 60-foot American flag outside.
All of Bushman's other businesses — hotels in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico, other shopping centers and a Chickn4U restaurant in Odessa — display the Ten Commandments engraved on 800-pound stone tablets. In Dallas, he owns the MCM Elegante Hotel & Suites on West Northwest Highway.
There was no question that the Ten Commandments would also become part of the common space in the newly renamed Music City Mall at Vista Ridge, Bushman said in an interview Thursday.
Last month, Bushman's ICA Properties paid $17.3 million in cash for the Lewisville mall and said it planned to spend $3 million to $4 million more on improvements.
"We're not trying to overwhelm anyone or make a statement. We just believe in the Lord's love," Bushman said. "That's the sole reason. We hope when someone sees it, it will touch their heart and give them new hope that day."
There was an issue with the floor of the mall's second level being able to support a monument with the entire Ten Commandments.
"We're putting the two greatest commandments, about loving the Lord and your neighbor, on the second level because they weigh about a third of the 800-pound Ten Commandments," Bushman said.
The 8-foot-tall, 5-foot-wide Ten Commandments will be in a visible location, too, but on the first level, where the floor can handle it, he said.
It may take a couple of months for the monuments to be ready and installed.
He wants Vista Ridge to be a "wholesome family place" — and that includes a visit from Santa on Saturday, with free family photos for the first 100 customers.
Faith-based marketing has been a part of American business for a long time.
Several large companies in America profess Christianity as part of the corporate culture and values.
Among them are Dallas-based Interstate Batteries Corp., Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby and Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A.
Richard Morton, the mall's new general manager, said there are changes coming outside the mall, too.
Six new entrance signs with the new name will be more visible from Interstate 35E, and a 30- by 60-foot American flag will be added.
School groups will be a big part of free entertainment. There will be music daily, even if it's coming from two new self-playing baby grand pianos. A couple of movable stages are coming.
An empty store space will be dedicated to local school art displays or performances.
Twenty 65-inch TVs are being installed in the common areas for nonshoppers to watch big games.
Not everyone is sure music will fix the shopping center.
Ginger Slavens, 34, of Lewisville said she would rather see the mall become more like Frisco's Stonebriar Centre, with its updated and trendy tenants, or bring in new technology that integrates social media into the shopping experience.
"Lewisville has a chance to make a statement, and they are going to turn it into the Grand Ole Opry," Slavens said. "And that is exactly the crowd that they are going to attract. Odessa is not like Lewisville in any way."