Regional Mall Owners Face One of Their Toughest Weeks on Record. How Will They Cope?

Restaurant and store closings might mean some very tough decisions for regional mall landlords.

This week was supposed to mark the opening of one of the biggest (and longest-planned) retail projects in U.S history—the American Dream Mall in the New Jersey. Parts of the property, including an indoor ski slope, have been opened for a few months. But on March 19, the American Dream’s developer, the Triple Five Group, intended to open the project’s retail section, water park and restaurants. With the new health guidelines coming into effect in New York and New Jersey, however, American Dream will remain closed until further notice.

This is a story that is playing out across the regional mall sector, which was already in a severely weakened state before coronavirus arrived in the United States. In many states and municipalities, including New York, New Jersey, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio and Washington, governments are requiring that businesses including restaurants, bars and movie theaters—the staple regional mall tenants—close their doors and only provide pick-up and delivery services if possible.

Meanwhile, a growing number of retailers, Apple, Urban Outfitters and Lululemon among them, have announced they are opting to close stores for the next few weeks out of concern for the safety of their customers and employees. Others, like Kate Spade and the Gap, have scaled back their operating hours. And there is expectation in the market that more retailers will follow their example. But as closings announcements accumulate, the publicly-traded chains’ stocks are getting hammered.

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