For those of you who will miss the JCPenney store in the Orchards Mall, consider this. Not even the straight up offer of the next three years absolutely rent-free was successful in enticing them to keep the store open.
Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland has been working strategically with the new owners of the mall through meetings and conversations to find solutions for the property. He tells me he knows for a fact that the current owners of the mall extended an offer to JCPenney that would have given them three years of free rent to stay in the Benton Township mall, because he was blind-copied on the correspondence.
Cleveland says, "JCPenney turned that offer down. It was a very generous offer from the mall owners and shows more initiative and desire to do something positive than the previous owner ever made."
It was back in the first week of March this year that Penney officials finally confirmed that the Orchards Mall store was on a list of 18 stores targeted for closure in one of several rounds of scale backs the company has undergone for the last several years.
Liquidation sales have been underway at the sprawling store which has anchored the mall since it was first built, and that liquidation process is scheduled to end on July 5th according to the March announcement. It was two years ago that local JCPenney fans were relieved to learn that their store was not involved in a much larger block of nearly 140 stores slated for closure by mid-2017. The Orchards Mall store survived when even stores like the one at the Lakeview Square Mall in Battle Creek were cut. In fact seven other stores across Michigan were on that larger list including stores in Houghton, Escanaba, Holland, Midland, Sault Ste. Marie and others.
Cornerstone's Cleveland says, "While the future of the mall is uncertain, it is clear that the current mall owners are making an effort to keep and recruit retailers in the mall, in fact, they tell me that they've made the same offer of three years rent free to other big box retailers." There was no indication which other big box stores might have been approached or encouraged, and none would likely be identified as the negotiation process continues for the mall owners behind the scenes.
The new owners of the mall were top bidders in an online auction a year ago and closed the deal last December. When the online bidding concluded last June, Cornerstone's Rob Cleveland said he had watched the process closely and said at that time, "The bids reiterate what we believe, and what we've said all along; that there's value in the Orchards Mall property. The Township (Benton Township) believes this, as do Cornerstone Alliance and other developers we've talked and met with." He added, "We are eager to work with a developer or owner that's as excited about the potential as we are."
While he has done exactly that, the end for Penney is at hand. Regardless of attempts to keep a store that was launched when the mall was built 40 years ago in 1979, the end is apparently now two weeks away.