Status of mall worth keeping watchful eye

Change often brings anxiety, and the announcement in May that the Logan Valley Mall is up for sale might be causing some concern in the community about the eventual impact of that transaction, if it comes to pass.

As an article in the Mirror’s May 23 edition reported, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, the mall’s current owner, is trying to sell Logan Valley Mall and the Valley View Mall in LaCrosse, Wis., “to further advance the quality of its portfolio and position the company for growth and value creation.”

If it happens, the proposed local sale won’t be the first time that the mall has changed hands. In 2003, Johnstown-based Crown American Corp., which built the shopping mecca in the 1960s, sold it to PREIT under a merger between PREIT and Crown American Realty Trust.

Over the years, the mall has had its ups and downs, but nevertheless has continued strong.

That said, it can’t be ignored that Logan Valley is feeling the effects of competition from other area shopping venues and, really, that’s not a bad thing, in terms of the area’s overall economy.

It’s appropriate to reflect on what’s happening on the mall scene across the country.

First, it seems safe to point out that Logan Valley won’t be added to the long list of malls that have closed over the past decade — more than 70, according to an April 19 article in the Wall Street Journal.

That article pointed out that the failed malls were victims mostly of new or newer malls.

The article went on to say that of those malls that closed, 23 were redeveloped into other types of retail property, such as strip centers or open-air shopping centers, while 18 were put into reuse as civic centers or converted into residential towers or industrial or office campuses.

Then, on June 19, the Journal reported how mall landlords across the United States are coming up with creative ideas for filling vacant mall space, such as with gyms and trampoline parks.

That June article also reported on the former Atrium Mall in Chestnut Hill, Mass., which has been repositioned as a wellness and medical facility that will include the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Logan Valley has had the good fortune of serving Altoona and its environs for half a century, despite the fact that when developers build a mall, they generally expect it to serve the community for just about 40 years.

Logan Valley continues to benefit from the major renovation and expansion that followed a devastating fire in December 1994.

But the retail scene is changing constantly.

As the Journal reported in its weekend April 22-23 edition, closings had been announced for 2,880 retail locations nationwide between Jan. 1 and April 6 of this year.

Based on that pace, it’s estimated that number will balloon to 8,600 locations by Dec. 31, which the Journal noted would eclipse the number of closings during the 2008 recession.

Altoona and Blair County should watch closely for developments regarding Logan Valley Mall’s future and, if the time comes, local officials should work with the new owner to ensure that the mall remains a vibrant entity.

Hopefully, any anxiety being experienced now about the mall’s future will be replaced by strong optimism, going forward.