When Cheap, Tax-Subsidized Real Estate Debt Is Not Enough-----The Shopping Malls Are Dying

From Zero Hedge

Starting in the mid-1990s, "the mall genie was out of the bottle," says one mall analyst, "and it was never going to come back." While about 80% of the country’s 1,200 malls are considered healthy (vacancy rates of 10% or less), that compares with 94% in 2006; and more than 30 million square feet of malls are more than 40% empty, a threshold that signals the beginning of what one one analyst called "the death spiral."

 

As The NY Times reports, like beached whales, dead malls draw fascination as well as dismay, "nobody ever thinks a mall is going to up and die," but as the following images show - dead or dying they are.

 

“It’s depressing,” Jill Kalata, 46, said as she tried on a few of the last sneakers for sale at the Athlete’s Foot, scheduled to close in a few weeks. “This place used to be packed. And Christmas, the lines were out the door. Now I’m surprised anything is still open.”

“I have no doubt some malls will survive, but major segments of our society have gotten sick of them,” said Mark Hinshaw, a Seattle architect, urban planner and author.

“It is very much a haves and have-nots situation,” said D. J. Busch, a senior analyst at Green Street. Affluent Americans “will keep going to Short Hills Mall in New Jersey or other properties aimed at the top 5 or 10 percent of consumers. But there’s been very little income growth in the belly of the economy.”

“We are extremely over-retailed,” said Christopher Zahas, a real estate economist and urban planner in Portland, Ore. “Filling a million square feet is a tall order.”

“Everybody has memories from childhood of going to the mall,” said Jack Thomas, 26, one of three partners who run the site in their spare time. “Nobody ever thinks a mall is going to up and die.”

Nearly 15 percent are 10 to 40 percent vacant, up from 5 percent in 2006. And 3.4 percent — representing more than 30 million square feet — are more than 40 percent empty, a threshold that signals the beginning of what Mr. Busch of Green Street calls “the death spiral.”

Industry executives freely admit that the mall business has undergone a profound bifurcation since the recession.

“Our business is more regional and high-end focused,” he said. “There are gradients of dead or dying or flat, but anything that’s caught in the middle of the market is problematic."

 

“The mall genie was out of the bottle,” Mr. Simmons said, “and it was never going to come back.”

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