As department stores exit, mall makeovers begin

Reprinted from The Chicago Tribune

mall-makeover-redevelopment“Everybody’s going to take a step back and re-evaluate how these spaces should be used,” says Alden Loury, director of research and evaluation for the Chicago-based Metropolitan Planning Council, which has examined the financial and social impact that mall retail vacancies have on mostly black communities.

Illinois has about 60 major malls, the majority in the Chicago area, and seven outlet malls that collectively house over 6,000 stores, according to, which tracks the industry. However, a significant number probably won’t survive the seismic retail store shake-up that’s underway.

Nationally, an estimated 300 malls — about a third of the total number — are expected to close over the next 10 years, according to industry research. That’s a conservative estimate that likely will accelerate as digital buying increases and inflicts greater pain on the bottom lines of bricks-and-mortar retailers, experts add.

It’s no huge surprise that malls catering to upscale shoppers in more well-heeled communities have a better chance of surviving the loss of a major tenant or shakeout. If a mall can replace a Macy’s with a Von Maur, a high-end department store, it’s a manageable adjustment.

Moreover, retail mall developers are trying to re-energize these open spaces by luring more restaurants, gyms or entertainment venues. For instance, since 2011 the locally based General Growth Properties has invested nearly $1.5 billion nationwide to freshen up 91 vacant or near-vacant department stores and mall spaces.

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