J.C. Penney is closing its latest Charlotte-area store Oct. 1, another instance of a national retailer’s struggles hitting close to home. The closure also highlights the challenge malls face in filling massive space formerly occupied by department stores.
The J.C. Penney at Eastridge Mall in Gastonia was part of a previously announced list of 138 under-performing stores the company said last March it would close in an effort to cut costs. J.C. Penney also closed its Monroe Crossing shopping center in Monroe on July 31, a spokesman said.
The closure of J.C. Penney at Eastridge leaves the mid-sized mall with just two anchor tenants, Belk and Dillard’s. Sears closed there in late 2014, one of about 100 stores the struggling retailer said it was shuttering at the time.
The J.C. Penney and Sears closures at Eastridge leave the mall with nearly 200,000 square feet of vacant retail space. The mall’s management has not yet found new tenants for the spots.
Lance Sturges, senior general manager at CityView Commercial, the New York real estate firm that bought Eastridge in 2013, says he is optimistic despite major closures. The mall is otherwise about 90 percent leased, with plans to open five new stores in coming months. The mall’s location, off Interstate 85 about 20 miles west of Charlotte, is also attractive for prospective tenants, Sturges said.
“We benefit greatly being adjacent to Charlotte, but this is Gastonia’s time,” he added. The mall’s seen interest near its property from major hotel operators, he added.
Sturges wouldn’t say exactly what his firm has in mind for the large vacant spaces, but he says he is open to the idea of a nontraditional mall tenant. Other malls have filled large vacant retail spots with grocery stores and offices, for instance.
“Retail isn’t going to go anywhere; it’s just changing,” Sturges said. “It’s not all doom and gloom.”