Cortana, Mall of Louisiana exemplify growing U.S. mall divide
In the world of shopping malls, there's a growing divide between the haves and the have-nots, and Baton Rouge's two traditional malls—Cortana and Mall of Louisiana—appear to exemplify this divide. According to national real-estate analysis firm Green Street Advisors Inc., only about 14% of the nation's approximately 1,000 malls meet or exceed sales averaging $400 per square foot. They're considered the luxury malls, and Mall of Louisiana is one of them. "We're well over the $400 per square foot mark, and actually we're over $500," says Mall of Louisiana General Manager Todd Denton, who declined to give a specific figure. "And our occupancy right now remains in the upper 90% range." Across town, the older Cortana Mall is about 72% occupied, says Jonathan Walker, a commercial real estate agent with Maestri-Murrell who tracks the local retail market. Daily Report's calls to The Woodmont Company—the Fort Worth, Texas-based real estate firm that was brought in to manage the mall a year ago—were not returned. But at that occupancy rate, it's virtually impossible for Cortana to be reaching the $400 per square foot mark—and maybe not even the $350 per square foot average among America's malls. While Cortana still boasts major anchor tenants such as Sears, Macy's, JC Penny and Dillard's, one of its anchor spaces remains vacant. Meanwhile, Cortana is also showing one of what Green Street identifies as telltale signs of a struggling mall: It's picking up and relying on non-retail tenants. For Cortana, the biggest is Virginia College, which replaced Steve & Berry's as an anchor tenant after the latter left the mall in 2009. It's also home to recruitment centers for the Army and Navy, as well as an East Baton Rouge Council on Aging senior activity center. Read the rest of this story and the entire Real Estate Weekly e-newsletter here. —Steve Sanoski
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