The mauling of malls

Posted: March 7, 2023 by chrisharper in Uncategorized

By Christopher Harper

Just up the road from our home in Muncy, Pennsylvania, sits the skeleton of the former Lycoming Mall, which recently locked its doors after nearly 45 years in business.

The mall, which opened in 1978, had more than 80 outlets. Many now defunct stores were once located there: Hess’s, Woolworth, Deb, KB Toys, Bon-Ton, Baker’s Shoes, Christopher & Banks, and others.

The issues that led to the closure of the Lycoming Mall plague many malls throughout the country: the impact of Covid and online buying.

While the country’s most popular malls continue to perform relatively well, with steady foot traffic and occupancy, hundreds of others are grappling with significant vacancies, fewer visitors, and uncertain futures.

American malls are a story of haves and have-nots. The real estate analytics firm Green Street estimates that at the 1,000 U.S. malls it tracks, there are about 750 vacant anchor boxes — vast spaces that once housed chains like Sears, Nordstrom, and Macy’s. Those are difficult to fill in regular times, but the past few years have made it extraordinarily tough.

A slew of bankruptcies, including J.C. Penney and Brooks Brothers, fueled closures. Some retailers decided to shutter their least-profitable stores, causing another exodus. More than 12,000 stores announced closures in 2020, according to CoStar Group, a data provider for the real estate industry.

Many people have a deep nostalgia for their local mall. It was often a place for teens to hang out after school, a source for back-to-school clothing, or the locale of a first job.

One of the local news sites collected stories from people about the Lycoming Mall.

“I got my Cabbage Patch doll there. I took classes in the community room to teach me how to walk in heels and put on makeup. I performed in the hole that was in the center of the mall at one time (baton twirling). I got belly button rings from Spencer’s. I got books for my daughter from the bookstore and took her to Boardwalk for fun. I have chased my grandkids around in that mall. So many memories,” said Bobbimarie Allen.

Fortunately, a group of local developers plans to create a mixed residential and shopping area in the Lycoming Mall, so the vast area won’t be an eyesore in a few years!

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