Great Timing for the Carousel Mall Expansion
9/10/2008 08:28:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
Image by Hackintosh (under a CC 2.0)

As the hulking monstrosity that is the Carousel Mall expansion grows from a pile of steel beams to a structure with more discernible features, this article comes out in the NY Times:

A Squeeze on Retailers Leaves Holes at Malls
In larger shopping malls, operators have not yet had to resort to giving away their space to attract tenants, but most landlords are facing mounting challenges these days. Vacancies are up, retail sales have been disappointing, and long established chains like Mervyn’s, Linens ‘n Things, Boscov’s and the Sharper Image have filed for bankruptcy protection, raising the specter of more dark spaces with fewer potential tenants to replace them.

Some 6,500 chain stores are expected to close this year, the largest number since 2001, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group. When stores close, neighboring stores may be entitled to exit or to have their rent lowered.
Congel has kept tight-lipped about who or what would be going into the expansion space. Which store will anchor it? How many other clothing or specialty retailers are out there? Will a majority of the space sit with plywood covers painted in murals of DestinyUSA dreams? Will Congel figure out a way to attract good restaurants, and keep them profitable?

More from the article:
The vacancy rate for regional malls is 6.3 percent, the highest since 2002. Though mall rents rose by 0.2 percent from the first quarter to the second, all retail rents are down when inflation is taken into account, Mr. Chandan said. New centers that opened in the first half of this year were just 62.8 percent occupied, on average, compared with 72.1 percent for those that opened last year, he said.

(emphasis mine)
I won't spend too long pointing out the obvious - that workers real wages are stagnant while food and energy costs are soaring. Consumer confidence in the economy is poor and keeping people at home. Even the dollar, which is strengthening, is bad news for Carousel. Canadians' reduced purchasing power and high fuel costs may keep them north of the border.

All bode poorly for the new space.

Bob Neidt of the Storefront column and blog at the Post-Standard writes on the same topic. Answering a letter from a reader, he supposes that some of the retailers in cramped spaces may want larger digs in the new expansion (Apple Store, Best Buy, etc.) But he worries about those "holes" too.
We've been so frustrated with the lack of detail about anything new possibly coming to the expansion -- I haven't been calling it "Destiny," either -- we've been dwelling on the potential vast emptiness of the expansion. Maybe focusing a little too much on that...
Will Carousel turn in to a microcosm of the Central NY area? Little to no growth but additional sprawl? Will tenants flee the central (older mall) to the new eastern burbs, like city residents fleeing to Fayetteville/Manlius? Will we see Driscoll and Congel offering redevelopment funds for the vacated core of Carousel?

Surely this is tongue in cheek. But one does have to wonder what the future of Carousel Mall holds.

As long as they get a Ruth's Chris in there, I'll shut up about it. (heh heh)