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Meet Us at The Mall: CBL Properties Redefined


By: Stephen Lebovitz, CEO, CBL Properties

When my family first entered the retail real estate business in the early 1960s, it was an exciting time for the industry. The mall was a new concept and was quickly becoming a destination, acting as a town center, and providing a place for growing suburban communities to come together. Over the years, the mall has become a centerpiece for so many of life’s important moments, from first jobs to back-to-school shopping, and visits with Santa, it is a significant part of American culture.


With more than four decades of experience as mall owners, we recognize what makes malls special and why they play such a meaningful role in the community. There’s no question that malls have changed and evolved significantly since those first developments in the early 60s, but the physical and the cultural foundation upon which they were built continue to make them successful. 


As we look across our portfolio and the industry today, we are in the midst of effecting the greatest transformation of the mall to-date. The combination of retail with new uses, including hotels and healthcare; new-to-market or market-exclusive entertainment; and programming that draws the community to our properties, allows us to better serve today’s customers and provide a modernized format for the mall we all know and love - one that offers both convenience and fun.


Since 2015, we have completed more than 50 redevelopment projects and have several others underway or in planning stages. By executing on this strategy, we are successfully boosting foot traffic, extending dwell times, and increasing sales across our portfolio. Foot traffic has rebounded, and property sales are up double-digits compared to 2019. Shoppers are visiting our centers with the intent to purchase and discover the new offerings we have for them to experience and rekindle their love of the mall.


Among those new offerings are two casinos in Pennsylvania, which replaced former department store anchors. At Westmoreland Mall, Live! Casino Pittsburgh opened in fall of 2020 and spans two-levels comprising 100,000 square feet. Through December 2021, the casino has contributed to a boost in foot traffic at the mall of nearly 16% compared to 2019, and sales through September are up 20% over 2019. The addition has also spurred leasing activity at the mall with a new bakery, seafood restaurant and jewelry store all slated to open in the coming months. At our other casino-anchored mall York Galleria, sales are also up. We saw a 20% increase through September over 2019 levels since Hollywood Casino opened in summer of 2021. 


In our hometown of Chattanooga, we are seeing similar success after welcoming an Aloft Hotel at Hamilton Place in June 2021. As the latest component of our redevelopment of a former Sears, the 134-room boutique hotel, combined with the addition of Dave & Busters, The Cheesecake Factory, and DICK’S Sporting Goods, has driven both foot traffic and sales up by 10%.


E-sports gaming and healthcare are two other new uses we recently added that are powering traffic at our malls. Pearland Town Center in Houston celebrated the opening of the first Belong Gaming arena in the U.S., in addition to the HCA Healthcare training facility for nurses, which spurs day-time traffic throughout the week. Many of the uses we’re considering as part of future redevelopment projects were unheard of as part of a traditional mall just 10 years ago.


Throughout 2022, we look forward to welcoming an array of new tenants that will add energy and value to our centers. West Towne Mall in Madison, Wisconsin, will celebrate the opening of high-end department store Von Maur in the fall. Five Guys, Blaze Pizza, and Thrifty White Pharmacy will join the recently opened Chick-fil-A at Kirkwood Mall in Bismarck, North Dakota as part of a Herberger’s redevelopment. An expanded Scheels at Dakota Square in Minot, North Dakota will open later this year.


We are also signing leases with more small businesses who are eager to open their first brick and mortar locations at their local mall. CBL’s malls are home to more than 1,300 locally owned concepts through our short-term leasing and POP-UP Shop programs, which offers all-inclusive, short-term leases of kiosks and retail space, as well as in-line tenant space. 


Our malls have long been and continue to be economic engines for the communities we serve. They are still the place to get your first job, visit with Santa and shop for back-to-school clothes. And through our proven redevelopment strategy, they are becoming a place to find so much more.


To us, “the mall” represents an opportunity to reimagine what has long been a part of our lives and communities. Let us be the first to invite you to Meet Us at the Mall.

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