The owner of the Clifton Park Center is scuttling plans to fill a long vacant anchor space with a single tenant as retailers capable of filling it either hunker down during the economic downturn or have already been wiped out by it.
DCG Development Co. wants to divvy up its Clifton Park mall’s exterior 55,000-square-foot space, which the Steinbach’s department store chain abandoned eight years ago. Rather than keep holding out for a large retailer, the developer is instead opting to cut up the space to create more storefronts.
“We’re willing to change. The market for big boxes is a little soft. Our attitude is if that is the case, we’ve had good luck leasing smaller spaces,” said DCG Vice President of Commercial Management Rick Eaglestone.
The smaller-store approach has been the central theme to DCG’s two-year-old effort to transform Clifton Park Center from an enclosed shopping center into an open-air mall. To achieve that goal, the developer razed the mall’s pedestrian walkway, creating several new storefronts.
This year marks the first holiday season the mall’s interior has been 100 percent leased since renovations started. The mall entered the season with 79 stores, compared to 54 a year earlier.
DCG recently submitted preliminary plans to Clifton Park planning officials to split up the Steinbach’s space. The plans neither identify how many new storefronts would be created or whom the new tenants would be.
Many of the mall’s new stores are small independent retailers or non-traditional tenants, such as a FunWorks FunZone and a space shared between Time Warner Cable and Capital News 9.
The dearth of even small national retail chains looking to expand at a time when consumers are clamping down on spending has limited DCG’s leasing options. Amid the retail sales slump, which fell to a 39-year low in November, larger retailers such as Boscov’s, Linen n’ Things and Circuit City have been forced into bankruptcy court.
Although retailers nationwide reported a better-than-expected turnout for Black Friday weekend, an index of 37 retail chain stores fell 2.7 percent in November. That sales decline made November retailers’ worst month since 1969, according to the Goldman Sachs-International Council of Shopping Centers index report released today.
Yet in Clifton Park, Eaglestone said Black Friday weekend “wasn’t half as bad as everyone was led to believe.” But he acknowledged sales at some mall stores might have been flat.
To further boost foot traffic at the Clifton Park Center, DCG has also proposed adding a four-story hotel. Those plans remain in their early stages, but Eaglestone said “everything’s very positive.”