Bloomington Candidates: Day Of The Mall Is Over

Mar 14, 2017

Candidates for Bloomington Council wards one, five, and seven spoke during a WGLT forum co-hosted by the League of Women Voters at the ISU Galleries in Uptown Normal.
Credit Staff / WGLT

The closure of Macy's in Eastland Mall is a symbol of retail upheaval nationwide according to Bloomington City Council candidates in wards one, five, and seven.

During a GLT candidates forum, Ward five Alderman Joni Painter said she was luke warm about incentives in the retail sector to restore Eastland as is.

"Well, I don't know. it just depends on what the company is and what they want for an incentive. I think that incentives are overdone and we could cut back on them," said Painter.

Other candidates were also cautious about incentives, particularly for large retailers, but declined to rule them out.

Candidates said internet commerce is making large retail centers less sustainable nationwide. Jamie Mathy is running in ward one.

"There is a very real possibility that at some point in the future the mall as we know it just goes away and we watch Eastland transform itself into something like the Shoppes at College Hills with smaller specialty stores," said Mathy.

Mathy said those smaller stores can focus on the needs of individual shoppers. he says big box stores with limited customer service are not sustainable.

Painter said those smaller stores could be a series of high end establishments mixed with restaurants and perhaps a movie theater. She said people who go to Brooks Brothers to buy a $2000 suit want to try it on.

Painter's ward five opponent Lupe Diaz said a different model than an enclosed mall might still be possible.

"What the Shoppes at College Hills has developed into, we should look into something like that. Or we should possibly look at an outlet mall that is actually larger than what we have on the west side that can bring in bigger stores," said Diaz.

Mathy's opponent in Ward one is Sue Feldkamp. She agreed fighting larger economic trends is not likely to succeed with Eastland Mall, but said the city can do some things.

"However, if you want a good idea to get more people shopping, let's lower those taxes. That has to be done to sustain the shops and businesses in the town of Bloomington," said Feldcamp.

Mathy said he would listen to mall management about its ideas to keep businesses open.

Lupe Diaz said someone told him the last enclosed Mall built in the U.S. was constructed in 2006.

Listen to the candidates forum.

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