Article submitted by Carmen R. Austin, MBA, CCIM, Associate Broker and Retail Specialist for Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate

Published by: The Economist March 31, 2012

THE old Rackspace headquarters was stuffed to the gills. In 2007 the company, which offers cloud-computing and web-hosting services, had more than 1,000 employees in downtown San Antonio. People were crammed at folding tables in the hallway. They often had to go to a different building or shuttle around the lifts to talk to people in other departments.

Still, when Graham Weston, the company’s co-founder and chairman, suggested that they move into a shopping mall, staff were sceptical. The mall was vacant. Its site, the encircled suburb of Windcrest, was slightly grotty, not least because of the huge dead mall right off the highway.

Building a campus from scratch, however, would have taken several years at least. Anyway, the place was cheap. “Nobody wants a mall any more,” says John Engates, the chief technology officer. Except Rackspace, and others like it, who have come to see a dead mall as a blank canvas. In 2008 it opened its new headquarters, and won a prize for community economic development. Now it has more than 3,000 workers on site, with plans to hire hundreds more by the end of the year.

Plenty of enclosed malls are, of course, still thriving. And after several abstemious years, shoppers are perking up. In February, according to the Commerce Department, retail sales were 1.1% higher than they had been in January—higher than expected, and a welcome sign of recovery.

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Carmen has been a practicing commercial real estate broker since 2001. She is a graduate of the Louisiana State University (LSU) E.J. Ourso College of Business and the LSU Flores Masters of Business Administration (MBA) Program with a specialization in Entrepreneurship and Real Estate Finance.  Her experience includes past employment as Regional Director of Leasing at Commercial Properties Realty Trust the for-profit arm of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. Carmen’s affiliations include Louisiana REALTORS®,Greater Baton Rouge Association of REALTORS® Commercial Investment DivisionInternational Council of Shopping CentersCommercial Real Estate WomenCertified Commercial Investment Member InstituteNational Association of REALTORS®, and Urban Land Institute. She is also an active volunteer on the board of directors for the Baton Rouge GalleryLSU MBA Alumni AssociationJunior Achievement of Baton Rouge, and the Junior League of Baton RougeCarmen most recently served as the 2010 President of the Louisiana CCIM Chapter and is a graduate of the prestigious Jay W. Levine Leadership Development Academy Class of 2011. 

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 Growth Coalition; 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).