The owners of Cortana Mall said Thursday that Macy’s decision to close its anchor store “is an opportunity to re-evaluate” its plans for the shopping center at Airline Highway and Florida Boulevard.
Officials with Moonbeam Capital Investments, the Las Vegas-based company that bought Cortana and the former Mervyn’s anchor store in 2013 for a combined total of $6.15 million, said it was unfortunate that Macy’s was closing the 243,000-square-foot store and it will create a void in the market.
The Macy’s location has been an anchor of Cortana since the mall opened in 1976. Several well-known department stores occupied the space before it became a Macy’s in 2005, including Dillard’s, McRae’s and Foley’s.
When Moonbeam bought Cortana in March 2013, company officials said they believed that Baton Rouge was still a two-mall city and there was a future for the property as a discount shopping and entertainment destination. There was talk about bringing a movie theater to the Mervyn’s space.
But after nearly three years, no significant new tenants have moved into Cortana. The Mervyn’s building still remains empty nearly 10 years after the store closed. And in two or three months, the Macy’s space also will be vacant.
Officials with Moonbeam did not elaborate on their comments about re-evaluating plans. Justin Langlois, a commercial real estate agent with Sperry Van Ness | Graham, Langlois & Legendre, who is not associated with the mall, said the company may be ready to switch gears and market Cortana for office space.
Older malls in a number of cities often become homes for trade schools, technical colleges, call centers and medical offices, Langlois said. Locally, the shuttered Bon Marche Mall became the Bon Carré Business Center, home for tenants such as Cox Communications and Venyu. Virginia College, a private, for-profit college has been in Cortana since 2010, moving into the anchor space that had been occupied by Service Merchandise, then Steve & Barry’s.
“The amount of money that office users can pay is not drastically different from retailers,” Langlois said, “and there’s not a tremendous amount of build-out.”
For tenants, there are advantages into moving into an older mall like Cortana. For one, the building itself is well-built and easy to maintain. It’s also in a good, convenient location. “Why wouldn’t a call center want to go in there?” Langlois asked.
And while Cortana has seen tenants leave over the years, the area around the shopping center has attracted a number of new tenants in the past few years, such as a Sam’s Club warehouse store and a Raising Cane’s restaurant.
Charlie Colvin, of Beau Box Commercial Real Estate said Cortana still has some potential but “just not for retail use” because of where the property is in its life cycle. There’s a lack of high-density office space in Baton Rouge, and the shopping center could fill that void, he said.
“They’re in the position to bring in another quality tenant but not another retailer,” he said.
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