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Can new retail concept revitalize struggling Festival Bay Mall?

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When Festival Bay Mall opened on the north end of International Drive in 2002, it was a mall that was doomed for failure.

The mall was intended to be an entertainment focused shopping center that would be a destination onto itself on Orlando's main tourist strip. But a poor location, combined with other tourist-oriented shopping plazas set up in the booming south-end of I-Drive, led to the mall being labeled as a "dead mall."

Now, Paragon Outlets wants to remake the struggling Festival Bay Mall into "Artegon Orlando," an "artisan bazaar" that will allow local entrepreneurs to sell their food and merchandise to tourist willing to shell out the cash.

When I first heard of the concept, I was tempted to call it a massive flee market, but it's not really a flea market. Paragon is comparing the new retail concept to Pike Place in Seattle, and Greenwhich Village in New York. Pretty comparable destinations, except those places are iconic and don't have a Bass Pro Shops as an anchor.

It's too soon to peg this as a success or not, but it is a different approach to just bulldozing the property. The building is still in good shape, and I was happy to see a developer come in and bring a fresh new idea. If this works, this could also be a solution to the numerous dead or dying malls that dots the American landscape.

So count me in as being a believer in the new Artegon Orlando development. It's funky, fresh and local, and could be the driving force in revitalizing this stretch of I-Drive.

Because god knows, it needs it.

Kareem Gantt gives his opinion on all things Central Florida. For more from this author, 'follow' him on Twitter, 'like' him on Facebook, and 'add' him to your network on Google.

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