While many malls across the country are struggling to stay open, the city of Oak Ridge is seeing retail growth.
Storefronts in the new Main Street Oak Ridge outdoor mall are starting to open. The clothing store Rue 21 just opened its doors last week. City officials said they designed the mall to fit the needs of consumers.
"Malls used to be ubiquitous in suburban America. The buildings are still there, but the economic vitality of those malls has just been declining and declining," said Matthew Murray, an economics professor at the University of Tennessee.
Murray said the traditional mall atmosphere is not as profitable as it once was, which is why cities like Oak Ridge are moving in a different direction.
The new mall is the rebirth of an area that back in the 1950s was the city's shopping center. In the ‘80s it became home to the Oak Ridge Mall, which eventually sat vacant, like many malls across the country.
"The old mall was just that, it was old and no mall in the success pattern this day has an indoor walkway. Nobody wants to pay the common area electric fees," Mark Watson, Oak Ridge city manager said.
Watson said old malls have higher operation costs at little value to the consumer. But this new space, he said, space is giving shoppers what they're asking for.
"It's outdoorsy and you have a variety of different things. It's not all enclosed,” Mai Hishmeh of Oak Ridge said.
"They're realizing this is what the consumers need and want," she added.
The days of brick and mortar aren't over just yet, but shoppers say the landscape needs to look a little different.
The next stores set to open at Main Street Oak Ridge are Dick's Sporting Goods and Rack Room Shoes, which are both opening in July. TJ Maxx will open its door in August.
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