Inside the Muncie Mall. Jordan Kartholl / The Star Press
Inside the Muncie Mall. Jordan Kartholl / The Star Press
MUNCIE — The aging Muncie Mall, which could see new ownership in 2020, can't survive as it is, according to a Ball State University expert who is calling for a mall renewal plan.

"As civic leaders and a community, we must regard the mall as part of our economic development strategy, because the mall is an employer, we have provided infrastructure to sustain the mall, and they pay property taxes," says urban planning professor Michael A. Burayidi. "We can't simply assume that the private sector should take care of it and the public sector has no role in its revitalization."

One of many possibilities is replacing two of the mall's former anchors — Sears and Carson's — with new anchors that aren't places to shop, such as a children's amusement or water park, a fitness center or even a megachurch, Burayidi said in an interview.

The problem is not just that more customers are shopping online via their computers and phones, it's also that "we're over-retailed — we've got too much retail compared to the population, so some of the shops and retail businesses have to close to bring the market to balance," Burayidi said.

The mall's owner, Washington Prime Group (WPG), in recent weeks and months dropped two similarly struggling malls from its portfolio of more than 100 shopping centers for far less than it owed on the properties.

• In July, Towne West Square, Wichita, Kan., was sold to Kohan Retail Investment Group, of Great Neck, N.Y., for only $14 million after WPG defaulted on the mall's $44.8-million mortgage.
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