LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - - With the announcement this week that Sears will be closing at Valley View Mall in La Crosse city officials are trying to come up with ideas to make sure the mall remains open and successful.
Sears is the third anchor store to leave the mall in just the past year and a half.
Valley View Mall is the third-largest taxpayer in our area, paying around $1.8 million in property taxes a year.
Because of its importance, the city of La Crosse said it's doing everything it can to keep the mall from going under.
Andrea Schnick, the economic development planer for La Crosse, said, "With the Valley View Mall losing three of its major anchors that have been there for decades, that obviously takes a hit to the mall and retail in that area."
Schnick said even though some stores are underperforming many are profitable.
"It's really the impact of what's happening to the owners of these stores nationwide, so not necessarily what's happening in La Crosse or in Valley View Mall because a lot of these stores are telling us that they're very profitable, yet, and they're still viable, yet, overall the management of the corporations are not being able to make it," Schnick said.
She is looking at what other successful malls are doing.
“What we see going on in Colorado and California, where they're really repurposing those sites, adding in residential units, bringing in business incubators or more of a commercial or office space aspect to it rather than just retail," Schnick said.
With 60 acres of land, Schnick said, a lot can happen at the mall, including housing and offices.
“It does really provide an opportunity for potential redevelopment in that area,” Schnick said.
Vicki Markussen, the executive director of the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce asked, "How do we replace an anchor store with another type of draw that the smaller stores will hence benefit from?"
Now that three big anchors are gone, the mall may start to focus on small local businesses.
"One of the things that they're talking about is actually becoming, for example, an incubator for small businesses, so we've seen some of our boutique local stores open up locations inside the mall," Markussen said.
But, ultimately, Schnick thinks the mall has to offer more than just shopping and food.
“Whether it's bringing back a movie theater or having mini golf, things that people can go and do rather than just shop,” Schnick said.
Even though three of itsfour anchor stores will soon be gone, the rest of the mall is at 95 percent occupancy, which the city said is a very high rate compared to other malls.
The city also said the mall draws several people here who live within a90-minute radius of it.
So it's important to keep the mall open for tourism as well.
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