Northgate Mall in Chattanooga loses Victoria’s Secret, PINK

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According to the retailer, two longtime fixtures from the Northgate Mall in Hixson, Victoria’s Secret and PINK stores, will not reopen after closing earlier this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

A spokeswoman for the retailer’s two stores at the Hamilton Place Mall, which have reopened, said units at Northgate will remain closed.

In stores, black plastic was placed inside store windows. The names of the stores have either been removed or obscured and it appears that the merchandise has been washed away.

Also in Northgate, the Children’s Place store is empty and Vitamin World appears to be closed. Additionally, the mall’s Justice store is on a closure list obtained by the USA Today units of Ascena Retail Group. Ascena, parent of Justice, Ann Taylor, Loft, Lane Bryant and Catherines, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday and announced plans to close several of its stores nationwide.

But the Zales jewelry store, closed for weeks, reopened in Northgate on Friday. A sign at Kay Jewelers, which also closed during the coronavirus outbreak, says it plans to reopen on Monday.

Stacey Keating, senior director of public relations and corporate communications for mall owner CBL Properties, said her rental team was already working to find replacement tenants for Victoria’s Secret and PINK.

She said the mall owner was unable to provide a mid-year occupancy rate per property for the mall.

Many retailers and malls, such as Chattanooga-based CBL, are struggling to manage their businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.

CBL, which also owns the Hamilton Place Mall and operates a portfolio of 108 properties nationwide, has chosen not to pay interest on two of its loans to lenders and is in talks with them about how to go forward.

Nick Shields, senior analyst for investment research firm Third Bridge, said many of the issues seen in the nationwide shopping and retail landscape in recent months are not entirely new. But the coronavirus pandemic has sped up the process, he said.

“What has happened is that we have had five years of store closures in malls in the five months since the pandemic in March,” he said. “It sped up that amount of time.”

Shields said a number of so-called “B” and “C” malls would not survive as they are now.

“They entered the already struggling pandemic,” he said, some of them with low occupancy rates.

In Northgate, the former vacant JCPenney store had previously been purchased by Chattanooga developer Bassam Issa and John Woods, the managing director of asset manager Southport Capital and owner of Chattanooga Lookouts. They also agreed to buy the old Sears site and worked on a deal to sell these properties to the Hamilton County School Board.

The board is considering letters of intent to buy the Sears plot for $ 6.5 million and the Penney tract for $ 2.4 million.

A replacement for the Chattanooga Liberal Arts School could be installed at the Sears site, with the school potentially expanding to a K-12 program. The Penney’s store could become the future home of a combined Alpine Crest / DuPont / Rivermont elementary school, as recommended in “Phase 1” of a school facilities plan.

Keating said it was too early in the process to say what the mall might look like if the school board goes ahead.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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