Missing Anchor A Drag For Mall Of America

Missing Anchor A Drag For Mall Of America

Substantially empty for almost three years, the old Bloomingdale’s space shows the challenges malls face as department stores founder.

When Bloomingdale’s at the Mall of America closed nearly three years ago, there were ambitious expectations for remaking the anchor’s space, including a plan for multiple “fashion-forward” retailers—a new niche for the mall. Today, those expectations are mostly unrealized.

Bloomingdale’s 210,000-square-foot space has been taken up by only one such retailer, Forever 21, which sits mostly in new basement square footage created by MOA after the department store closed, says Alison Kaplan, Mpls.St.Paul magazine senior editor for shopping and style, who has chronicled the local retail scene since 2000.

L.L. Bean leased about 15 percent of the Bloomingdale’s for its first Twin Cities store, while the mall is devoting nearly a third to an exhibit center. Kaplan believes well less than half of the space is currently generating revenue for the mall’s owners, Triple Five Group.

“The lesson learned is you probably don’t want to make sweeping announcements about your leasing plans” before you have tenants, says Kaplan. She says the exhibit space “feels temporary,” but L.L. Bean and Forever 21 seem to be working out.

MOA did not make an executive available for interview, but Kaplan says Maureen Bausch, MOA’s recently departed executive vice president of business development, was unconcerned about the Bloomingdale’s void, telling Kaplan that “finding a retailer to fill a space is never the issue. It’s timing.”

Still, “these department store spaces are a challenge to repurpose,” Kaplan explains. That can’t be good news for MOA, which hosts troubled Sears in one of its three other anchor spots (Macy’s and Nordstrom hold down the remaining two). Bausch told Kaplan Sears wants to keep that store open.

Kaplan suggests MOA’s design, which isolates the four anchors from pedestrian circulation more than in most malls, may be hindering the leasing of the Bloomingdale’s space. MOA is also soliciting tenants for phase II (opening later this year), which Kaplan says has no department store space; and planning phase III, for which Kaplan says management told her it hoped to attract a new-to-town department store.