Brooklyn Center officials are hoping the loss of Macy's at Brookdale Center may spur efforts by mall owners to sell or redevelop the ailing shopping center.
"We view Macy's leaving as a possibility for change," said Mayor Tim Willson. He noted that Macy's was the third anchor store to close, leaving only one anchor, Sears. "The banks or [mall] owners may be wondering how they will get their investment back," Willson said.
City Manager Curt Boganey said closing Macy's gives mall owners or developers more options, including demolishing the 42-year-old former Dayton's department store, remodeling it for smaller businesses or finding a new anchor.
"When you are dealing with that much vacant space, and I presume lost revenues, there is a greater incentive to do something to find a new owner or developer," Boganey said.
A commercial real estate developer expressed interest in the mall in late November, but Boganey said the company hasn't called back and he doesn't know if it is still interested. He said mall owner Brooks Mall Properties failed to make mortgage payments and its lender has taken over. The City Council approved a Brooks proposal in August 2007 to locate a Super Wal-Mart in the space of former anchor Mervyn's. But that plan was snared in a lawsuit.
"We are not pursuing this site at this time," Lisa Nelson, a senior Wal-Mart manager and spokeswoman, said last week.
Wal-Mart's proposal initially was stalled after anchor Sears sued Brooks Mall in late 2007, Boganey said. He said Sears believed its mall use agreement gave it the right to approve new stores that affected mall parking or access roads. In October, a Hennepin County judge ruled that Sears was entitled to a trial. The case is tied up in appeal motions.
Macy's owns its 195,000-square-foot building and will try to lease or sell it, the company said recently.
Boganey said the city has been upgrading street lights and landscaping along mall-bordering Xerxes Avenue to make the area more attractive for shoppers. More such improvements are planned along Bass Lake Road.
"The city is doing the things it can to create the most positive and attractive environment," he said. Boganey is not expecting much action until the economy improves, but when developers appear "we will have the best environment possible."
Another large mall tenant, Barnes & Noble bookstore, wouldn't comment officially on what effect Macy's closing might have on its sales. But store clerks said most of their business comes in the front door facing the parking lot, not the back mall entrance. The clerks, who asked not to be named, don't expect much effect on sales.
Several Brookdale shoppers thought losing Macy's will hurt.
Carol Flom, of Crystal, said her husband just gave her a $150 Macy's gift certificate for Christmas, which she thinks will buy more with store-closing sales. She goes to Brookdale once a week to walk the sparsely populated hallways between the food court, Sears and Macy's.
Flom said if Macy's leads to Brookdale failing, "think of all the businesses around the mall that depend on some of the spinoff business. It could be a domino effect."
Ron Ligget, who is retired, said his wife shops at the mall Macy's because it is the closest Macy's to their Champlin home. He added, "When Macy's closes, we won't come back."
On the brighter side, Brookdale had only nine violent crimes last year, three less than in 2007. The nine violent crimes in 2008 were one aggravated assault and eight robberies, the last of which was in August, said city Police Chief Scott Bechthold. He said the mall had one rape, in 2007.
According to preliminary figures, serious crimes -- violent crimes plus theft, auto theft, arson and burglary -- also dropped at the mall by about 6.4 percent from 581 crimes in 2007 to 544 in 2008. Theft, mostly shoplifting, dropped from 556 to 523.
Bechthold attributes the crime drop to collaborative work last year with neighboring police agencies, including cracking down on truancy and juvenile curfew violations.
Jim Adams • 612-673-7658