Malls ditch shopping to fill wasteland of vacant retail stores |


Irma Sanchez shops with her children, Kaly Garcia, Isai Sanchez and Antonio Morley at the Coral Square Mall in Coral Springs, Florida last January.

Imagine 16 deserted Mall of Americas. That’s how much space battered mall owners need to fill heading into 2022, more than 90 million square feet. It’s no easy task, with dozens of retail chains already cutting back or shutting down, and it won’t get any better if the newest pandemic wave scares off shoppers.

So landlords are wooing businesses that have little or nothing to do with shopping. Casinos, amusement parks, medical facilities, storage units, hotels, schools, offices and residences are fair game, as even healthy shopping centers are forced to rethink their game plans for next year and beyond.

“In 2030, you’re going to see most malls are going to be not considered a mall anymore,” said Greg Maloney, chief executive for Americas retail at real-estate services firm JLL. “They’re going to be considered a mixed-use asset.”

They might wind up looking like Mall of America, the biggest one in the U.S. whose layout includes Nickelodeon Universe and an aquarium, or like Chattanooga, Tennessee-based CBL Properties. Back in August, this owner of about 100 less-prestigious malls and shopping centers added the 80,000-square-foot Hollywood Casino on an old Sears site at its York Galleria in Pennsylvania. It brought in industry giant Penn National Gaming Inc. with 500 high-tech slots, two dozen table games and Barstool Sportsbook.

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