Cortana Mall could lose another anchor tenant

    Cortana Mall is hanging in the balance in the wake of J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison’s announcement Wednesday that the company will soon shutter some of its stores.

    The retailer is one of two remaining anchors at the north Baton Rouge mall following the closure of Macy’s and the pending closure of Sears.

    It remains unclear whether the J.C. Penney location at Cortana will be shuttered. When asked about the possibility of a J.C. Penney closure and the future of the retailers at the Cortana, a spokesman for the mall’s owner, Moonbeam Capital Investments, sent a press release dated Jan. 5 that announces the closure of Sears.

    “Moonbeam views Sears’ announcement as an opportunity to enhance Cortana Mall using its expertise in repurposing vacant tenant space and redeveloping mall properties nationwide,” the release says. “Cortana Mall will benefit in the long-run.”

    The mall is actively looking for “non-traditional” mall tenants, the release says, adding it will bring health care, education and office tenants to Cortana. It is also seeking restaurant, entertainment and more retail tenants.

    A J.C. Penney spokesperson declined to comment in an email.

    The mall has room for four anchor tenants, but the closure of Macy’s and the soon-to-be exodus of Sears will leave it with only two—J.C. Penney and Dillard’s.

    Last week, Daily Report confirmed Cortana tenant Foot Locker will leave in March, on the heels of several other retailers, including Lenscrafters and The Limited, shutting down.

    “It’s sort of a domino effect,” says Elifin Realty owner Mathew Laborde, a commercial broker. “Once retailers start to move out of the mall and are replaced by things other than more retailers, the traffic that was being drawn to the mall is no longer coming.”

    Cortana will have trouble trying to survive if it sticks to only retail, Laborde says. Instead, the mall will likely continue diversifying the types of tenants that move in. For-profit Virginia College moving into Cortana several years ago is an example of a new type of tenant that the mall will have to attract to succeed in the current location, he says.

    “The demographics of the area have changed, and there is a certain stigma associated with (Cortana) that builds up in the community once retailers start to leave,” Laborde adds. “I think it’s steadily going to be repurposed, and that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

    —Sam Karlin

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