(Source: Wall Street Journal)

Malls, those ubiquitous shopping meccas that sprang up in the 1950s, are dwindling in number, with many struggling properties reduced to largely vacant shells. 

On the low-income east side of Charlotte, N.C., the 1.1-million-square-foot Eastland Mall recently lost a slew of key tenants, including a Dillard’s and, next month, a Sears. Sales per square foot at the venue fell to $210 in 2008 from $288 in 2001.

The Metcalf South Shopping Center in Overland Park, Kan., is languishing after plans to redevelop it into an open-air shopping district fizzled. The stretch of shops that connects the two largest tenants — a Sears and a Macy’s — stands mostly vacant, patrolled by security guards.

With their maze of walkways and fast-food courts, malls have long been an iconic, if sometimes unsightly, presence in the American retail landscape. A few were made famous by their sheer size, others for the range of shopping and social diversions they provided.

But the long recession is helping to empty out the promenades. Some analysts estimate that the number of so-called “dead malls” — centers debilitated by anemic sales and high vacancy rates — will swell to more than 100 by the end of this year.

Read Kris Hudson and Vanessa O’Connell’s full article “Recession Turns Malls Into Ghost Towns” in the Wall Street Journal (May 22, 2009).

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