Waccamaw pottery getting new life; Freestyle still waiting

While the long-vacant Waccamaw Pottery mall has a new owner with plans for bringing the property back to life, questions remain about another big property in Fantasy Harbour, the former Freestyle Music Park.

Now that the mall's new owner's group, 3W LLC, has taken over, retail stores, restaurants, and entertainment are in the works for the property, but things don't look nearly as rosy for the troubled theme park.

It's an exciting time for Imaginations Costume Shop.

After being nearly the lone tenant at the former pottery mall for the past two years, Imaginations will soon get new neighbors. After being nearly the lone tenant at the former pottery mall for the past two years, Imaginations will soon get new neighbors.

The store's owner doesn't know what to expect, but in the short time since the mall's new management took over, she's seen good things happen already.

"So far they've been out here landscaping, killing weeds in the parking lot, they've boarded up some broken windows," said Imaginations owner Shanna Coley.

Across the street from the pottery mall, the manager of Staybridge Suites hotel expects maybe a whole new lease on life for the Fantasy Harbour area.

"Looks like we're heading in that direction with the mall opening back up, especially with the new bridge that opened to the airport. We're on the map again," said Eric Reis.

Reis said having a vacant mall property next door to the hotel hasn't been good for business. "But now that they're covering the windows up and cleaning the sidewalks off, even getting some repairs done, makes it great," he said.

It'll take a good facelift to bring the mall back to life, but the realtor who's marketing it said new tenants could start moving in almost immediately.

"Because of our aggressive pricing structure and knowing that we're going to be making substantial changes, there's a lot of anticipated success here and we're going to be signing leases within the next few weeks," said Alain Wizman of Keller Williams Realty.

But clouds remain over Freestyle, the twice-bankrupt theme park just behind the former pottery shops.

Wizman doesn't represent Freestyle, but he's aware of talks to find a new operator for it and he said one group is very actively negotiating.

Still, he said it'll be almost impossible to open the park this year and maybe not even in 2013. "I don't think it's a reality for at least 18 to 24 months. I think that's the best possible scenario for us, if we can keep the park here at all," Wizman said.

Freestyle has been closed since the end of the 2009 season. Wizman said it will take months for any new operator to work out regulatory and safety issues.

The former Waccamaw Pottery mall once housed 125 outlet stores. It closed in 2004.