Wednesday, October 5, 2016

10.5.16 Bee-otch of the Day: Rouse Properties

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Name: Rouse Properties
Age: 5
Occupation: mall owner
Last Seen: New York City
Bee-otched For: allowing my childhood mall to become a near-ghost town 


The year was 1992. The internet was not all that popular yet, The first George Bush was entering his final year in the White House and grunge was in.

It was also the year the biggest town closest to me, Traverse City saw its newest and coolest mall to date, Grand Traverse Mall. The mall itself opened in phases, but was finally fully opened later that year. When it opened, the mall had over 100 stores, JCPenney (which moved from the downtown location it had since the 1920s), Hudson's (now Macy's) and Target. Plus, it had a nine-screen theater, a food court complete with a carousel and (especially for me) and nice-sized arcade, Pocket Change that I spent lots of my hard-earned allowance at.

A few months ago, I went there for the first time in six years and, well, a song from the ironic year of 1992 popped up in my head.

In recent years, the movie theater closed, the arcade downsized from a sizable section of the food court to a measly little spot near the food court. But hey, you can still ride the carousel!

But the saddest part of the mall is the fact that the corridor leading to Target is nearly empty. Back in the day, there was Gumballs, which sold bulk goods, a dollar store and a shoe store called "Athletic X-Press" which was really Foot Locker, which had another store in the mall.

Oh, did I mention that Foot Locker no longer has a store at the Mall, nor in northern Michigan? At least Famous Footwear sells Nikes.

Part of Grand Traverse Mall's problems all stemmed from the fact that its former owner, General Growth Properties went bankrupt during the Great Recession of 2008. In 2011, GGP created a spin-off, Rouse Properties, that own mostly malls in smaller to mid-sized towns. Rouse owns five malls in Michigan, including Grand Traverse Mall. Late last year, the Cinema closed when Carmike opened up their new 14-screen + IMAX megaplex about a mile away at the old Horizon Outlets. The mall announced that the space where the old Cinema was, plus a huge chunk of the surrounding corridor was going to become a new Dick's Sporting Goods.

Now, as some people are jokingly saying, Dick's has pulled out.

According to several sources, Dick's has withdrawn their plans to build their new store, though according to the mall's general manager, the deal isn't officially dead, though it's not moving forward, either. the 54,000-square foot store would have hired 60-75 staffers.

Some are claiming that the mall's no-carry policy played a role since Dick's sells guns, though management is denying it. Some are also blaming Garfield Township for the debacle.

Nonetheless, the mall has a situation on its hands. The Traverse City area has seen plenty of development over the years, including a new Costco that's in talks over by Cherry Capital Airport and the addition of a new Meijer in Acme. However, there are some retail duds in the area, including Traverse City's first indoor mall, Cherryland, which is now an outdoor shopping center.

But look here in Grand Rapids. I live down the street from Woodland Mall, which turns 50 next year. Guess what? THAT MALL IS AWESOME! When Rivertown was built in 1997 in Grandville, instead of putting its tail between its legs like Cherryland did, they simply remodeled and added in new stores and a food court. The mall's owner, Taubman sold to PREIT (Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust) who kept building on to the mall, adding restaurants, a movie theater, a two-story Barnes and Noble and a lot of stores that once were never in Grand Rapids. Hell, right now, The Apple Store is moving next door to a bigger space. Yes, there was that hiccup with the recent controversy regarding the store that sold dogs from puppy mills, but that was quickly resolved.

Hell, even Centerpointe Mall across the street improved tremendously when they demolished half the mall and made that into an open air shopping center. When it was enclosed, it was like walking though miles of pure nothing.

So, why in the hell is Grand Traverse Mall 25% dead and Cherryland loaded with empty spots? IMHO, it's management. From what I was told, Grand Traverse Mall's problem is that the high rent has scared off some tenants over the years, or they've downsized altogether. True, there's also the issue of attracting some big-name stores to smaller-than-what-they-think-it-is Traverse City, pop. 15,000. TC has no Barnes and Noble, TGI Friday's, H&M, Apple Store and other common stores seen here in Grand Rapids.

IMHO, I think the managers of TC's failing retail outlets need to pay a visit to Woodland and Centerpoint and look at success. See what they're doing right and use that as an idea. Right now, downtown TC is a helluva lot nicer than the malls.

Right now, the only thing Woodland doesn't have that Grand Traverse Mall has is a carousel. 


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