It is finally an absolute, definite, no-question-about it fact: The much-delayed opening of the Rim Country Mall the 75,000 square foot shopping center that's long been under construction in the old Wal-Mart building on Highway 206 will take place sometime between July 15 and Aug. 1.
That is, at least, the timeline now anticipated by the project's prime moving force, George Harrison, owner of C & H Properties in Scottsdale.
At least two of Harrison's tenants-to-be are hoping he's on target, and that the past six weeks of finance-related construction delays and setbacks are at an end.
"I don't really know when we can expect to make our move," said Bruce Griffin, owner of the Sears franchise that will serve as the mall's anchor business. "The schedule in our minds is July 24th ... (Construction was) really rolling until they had that slowdown, so now that they're back to work, things should start picking up.
"I'm not happy about the slowdown," Griffin said, "but hey, I'm a businessman. I've been self-employed for 25 years. When things happen that are out of your control, you can either roll with it or fight it, and I choose to roll with it."
"But we're certainly ready to go. We hope it's the end of July. If it's not, it will be shortly thereafter. That's our goal at this point."
Keven Rush, owner of the Payson Athletic Club, has also felt left in the dark as to when, exactly, he'll be able to make his move across Highway 260.
"I have no idea when we're moving in," Rush said. "But I talked to (mall contractor) John Bishop (Wednesday); he said that they had gone back to work last week, and that while he didn't want to commit to anything, he thought it may be done in maybe eight weeks or so which would put it around late July.
"I have no problem with that," Rush said. "We're pretty accommodating. We just want to get into the building."
Hole in the wall
The issue that has probably created more discussion among Payson residents than the mall's delays or opening date is the giant opening that's been punched into the front of the building.
According to Ray LaHaye, chief building inspector for the Town of Payson, the hole will soon be converted into an entrance for Sears, providing the mall with a second entry point the other being a main entrance to all mall businesses that will also face Highway 260 just several yards east of Sears.
That plan is not exactly what Rush had in mind when he contracted to relocate his business to the Rim Country Mall.
"I have not been aware that Sears would have a separate entrance, but it doesn't really affect me," Rush said. "I think that the majority of our members will walk through the mall.
"But when we (made the decision to lease space in the mall), I told George Harrison that we needed our own east-side entrance from the parking lot in addition to the common-area entrance.
"We had that agreement before any of the other people came in, because we were planning on having a swimming pool which we're still planning to put in down the road and we felt that some people would not want to walk in their swimsuits through the mall," Rush said.
According to LaHaye, however, blueprints for the mall show only an emergency exit on the east side of the building facing Manzanita Drive and no entrance for the Payson Athletic Club.
"What I have been expecting is both an entrance and an exit, so I don't know if that's a problem with the plans or what," Rush said.