Over the past year, those of us in the southern suburbs have watched as our regional mall is being transformed from the inside out. Simon, the world's largest mall operator that tookover ownership of Southridge a few years ago, decided to put Southridge on the map again in terms of making it attractive for retailers and restaurants. So far, thanks in part to $16 million from the Village of Greendale, Simon's plan is moving along smoothly.
Macy's is now open and bringing new life to the mall's south wing, where the once-vacant Younkers space was dubbed a cancer that could eventually kill the mall if not eliminated. With Macy's, several other retailers have either opened or remodeled their existing stores in the mall, including H&M (opened last year), Rue 21 and Maurices. But even with this new life, there's the big news that Old Navy left Southridge. Many have asked why such a decision to close, especially with that part of the mall coming back again. The mall didn't make any significant comment on the closing either, mostly leaving it up to our imaginations as to what's the real reason behind it.
The way I see it, mall management has been working diligently to transform the southern wing of Southridge into more of a high-end destination for shoppers. This wing would likely cater more-so to wealthier suburbanites from Franklin to New Berlin rather than folks coming in from the south side of Milwaukee. Management hasn't kept this secret; since the announcement of Macy's they've provided quotes to various Milwaukee-area media outlets noting their desire to make the southern wing more upscale and, in particular, geared for women shoppers. Having an Old Navy, which promotes and is proud of its low priced clothing offerings, in the middle of this vision surely wasn't too appealing behind the scenes. In addition to this, Old Navy's space within the mall was likely too large for it to simply be moved to another location. Southridge has the distinction of having 5 department stores - the most for this metropolitan area. The issue though is that the 5th anchor (Kohl's) takes up space which normally has retailers such as Old Navy. Kohl's is great as an anchor, but it does limit opportunities for smaller tenants wishing to locate at Southridge.
The only options with Old Navy would have been locating it to the former Borders along 76th Street or building a store somewhere in the mall's outer parking lots. The Borders site would have been great visibility and is directly across from the new Walmart being built. However, Borders is now taken. It was announced in June that DSW will be moving to the old Borders location.
As for the outer parking lots, I'm sure management would like to see something similar to what Mayfair and Brookfield Square did - build lots of restaurants. You can see this desire coming to be right now with the former Leath store becoming a Longhorn Steakhouse and Panda Express.
While we're likely saying goodbye to Old Navy, it'll be interesting to see what new shopping and dining opportunities are in store for southern suburban shoppers. Personally, I'm still holding out hope for a Cheesecake Factory.