Morrisville, NC — The last stores in the Morrisville Outlet Mall on Airport Boulevard closed several years ago, so I was surprised to find out that the doors are still open.
Remember the Morrisville Outlet Mall?
I visited the Morrisville Outlet Mall not knowing what to expect – after all, I’d heard rumors that the last of the shops had been closed for awhile. But I saw just a couple cars in the mostly-empty parking lot on the Airport Boulevard side of the mall, so I parked, my curiosity getting the best of me. I thought the doors would be locked, but, to my surprise, I was able to walk right inside.
I recognized the space right away. I had loved going to the Morrisville Outlet Mall when I was a little girl to see the Big Dog Sportswear store. As a teenager, I’d enjoyed exploring the variety of items inside the mall’s consignment shop. Even by then, most of the stores had already closed, but I bought several items there that I’ve held onto – a beautiful wooden necklace from Peru and a 60’s mix CD that has had me hooked on oldies music ever since.
I always remember the space being close to empty – even in the 90’s. Though the interior of the mall was always beautiful and well-kept, and still is, there was just never much of a draw.
The site is close to the airport, and, with planes flying close to the ground overhead, there aren’t many homes nearby, and, in return, not many shoppers.
A couple of years ago, rumor had it that a Chinatown was coming to the mall, but that never happened. After talking to Morrisville officials, I learned that the plan is likely off the table.
Even though the Town doesn’t own the building, they are ready to support the owners in developing the mall into something new. It’s very much a waiting period right now, though, as no further plans for the Morrisville Outlet Mall have been expressed.
The mall isn’t vacant, though, which explains why I could get inside.
Even though the front doors had led me into a dark, empty space, I could tell there was still some sort of life inside. As I walked past empty glass storefronts and benches lined up neatly in a row, I passed two power-walkers. I came across a lit-up nook that held bathrooms and a telephone – but, when I checked them, the doors were locked and the phone was out of order.
I smelled food, heard voices and saw a familiar pink neon sign coming from the food court on the opposite end of the mall, which, sure enough, was up and running. It was right around lunchtime, and a good 30 people or so were sitting at the tables eating.
Several of the food stalls were closed, but five were up and running – Greek Fiesta, Subway, Philly Steak Factory, Asian Cafe and Peets Coffee & Tea.
A lot of the diners were wearing scrubs, and, when I asked a few where they worked, they told me that they were from the Epic@UNC Training Facility, which is currently using some of the space in the mall to accommodate training demands for a new IT system.
Sure enough, as I walked back to the middle of the mall, I noticed the white sign and a door that people came in and out of every now and then. Apparently, the place is perfect for training. According to UNC Healthcare online, the empty retail space inside the Morrisville Outlet Mall is big enough to hold 47 classrooms. The mall’s empty lots and the food court provide ample parking for trainees and food for more than 12,000 UNC providers and employees.
Adjacent to the UNC training center, one more organization is using the space – the Chinese Folk Literature and Art Association. That explained the various Chinese lanterns hung around the mall and the brochures I had seen in the middle of the food court.
What Do You Remember?
What are your thoughts about this space? What do you remember about the mall when it used to have stores? I’d love to read your comments below.
Story and photos by Jessica Patrick.
Morrisville coverage is sponsored in part by the Morrisville Chamber of Commerce.