Article submitted by Danny Watts,  Sales and Leasing Agent at Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate

Written by Rob Varnon and Olivia Just May 4, 2012

That the malls are doing well doesn’t surprise experts like David Woitowitz, architect with JP Franzen Associates, whose expertise includes designing smaller retail spaces.”A lot of people like going to the mall because it’s all in one place,” he said. “You are able to hit it and go to five stores in one location. They’re mini cities, almost.”

Woitowitz said the owners of many centers now are continually renovating, retooling and finding new ways to fit more shops in some of the nontraditional spaces in the malls.That the malls are doing well today is surprising considering what happened in the recession.

” `Brutal’ is a good word” for what malls faced during the recession, said Ryan McCullough, a real estate economist for CoStar Group Inc. “I think the truth of the matter is that malls did struggle, but today, they are stronger off than your average shopping center.”Before the recession, the average rent nationally was $22.47 per square foot, he said. Today, it’s just over $18. It had dropped under $18 during 2011, but has been rising recently, McCullough said. That’s for all retail spaces, not just malls.

According to Westfield’s parent corporation, average rents per square foot in 2011 for its American properties was $60.16 per square foot.Today, the average vacancy rate in malls is 5.8 percent, McCullough said, which is up from the 2007 rate of 3.4 percent, but better than the 6.9 percent vacancy rate for retail space across the country. He said to get to this point, malls cut rates and brought in a new mix of shops and services. You can now find more restaurants and services in malls than you could five or six years ago. In some, you’ll find dentists, financial services, massage clinics and fitness clubs. Milford will welcome an L.A. Fitness this year to the Connecticut Post mall.

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Danny Watts, a commercial real estate sales and leasing specialist with Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate, is a graduate of Louisiana State University (LSU). He has over 20 years experience in commercial real estate brokerage and appraisal. His areas of expertise include commercial and industrial brokerage and leasing; multi-family brokerage; lease negotiations; tenant build outs; market analysis and insight; and feasibility and valuation analysis. Danny is a member of the Commercial Investment Division (CID) of the Greater Baton Rouge Association of REALTORS®, a board member of the Perkins Road Historic Merchants District Association, and has served as a vice president for Literacy Works of Baton Rouge.

Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate is a member of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce (BRAC); the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce; the Baton Rouge Better Business Bureau; the Louisiana Commercial Data Base (LACDB); and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). Several agents, on an individual basis, are members of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors® (SIOR), the Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute (CCIM); the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR); and the Greater Baton Rouge Association of REALTORS® Commercial Investment Division (CID).