Indicator: Church Moves Into Mall

A mall in Wilmington, North Carolina has come up with a unique way to fill empty store space — add a church. The 250-member church will open in Independence Mall in mid-July. Listener Kate Burton shares this story from her hometown paper. Star News reports:

"Why a church? I'd say why not a church. These days malls are being looked at and leased for lots of nontraditional uses," such as yoga centers, medical clinics and showrooms that drive traffic to other businesses outside the mall, said Susan Godorov, vice president of marketing for Centro Properties Group, which owns Independence Mall.

Though Centro Properties has rented to churches in their indoor malls in the past, there currently are no churches in their malls. There are seven stores without tenants in the mall, though not all of the stores with leases have moved in, she added. "We are very excited to have the church open."

But local real estate experts say that the mall renting to a church echoes the struggles in the commercial real estate market right now.

"Whenever a shopping center begins to fill its space with users who are not retailers by trade (churches, call centers, medical clinics, etc.) it sends a signal that things are not operating as normal," said Hansen Matthews, a partner with Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Co., a local commercial real estate company.

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