TOPEKA (KSNT) – Topeka’s newly elected mayor, Mike Padilla, and interim City Manager Bill Cochran held their first press conference of 2022 at city hall Tuesday morning.

Cochran said the property owner, KDL, Inc., is moving forward with the demolition of White Lakes Mall. Padilla said the process of knocking down the mall completely will take about three months, with asbestos removal being the top priority.

The White Lakes Center suffered $100,000 in damage from a December 2020 fire.

According to Brian Lensing, the White Lakes owner and its representatives are working with the city on the project. “Obviously, the property has experienced some challenges in recent years. This demolition will align with the concerns of a number of stakeholders, including KDL, the City of Topeka, and neighboring residents,” Lensing said.

“We want to do it right,” Padilla said.

Padilla touted the latest report that showed Topeka crime statistics are dropping. Topeka saw a 25% decrease in overall crime in 2021, a 27% decrease in property crime, and a 13.5% decrease in violent crime, according to the Topeka Police Department. Those numbers come from the Topeka Police Department’s 2021 year-end report.

When asked about community pandemic response, the mayor asked residents to get vaccinated.

“…Get the booster if it is necessary,” Padilla said. “We’re not living in fear, we’re living in reality, and those are the things we should do.”

Cochran joked road construction is just about six weeks away and touted “exciting” projects.

“It’s an exciting time in the city of Topeka,” Cochran said.

Cochran described the biggest challenge for the city of Topeka was to continue to grow. Padilla ended the press conference by agreeing, saying retaining and growing the population of Topeka has to be a priority.