Macy’s refilling empty Carson’s in suburban Chicago

New models helps as vacant department stores are tough to fill

From left: Lormax Stern's Daniel L. Stern and Christopher G. Brochert; Macy's CEO Jeffrey Gennette; former Carson's department store in Water Tower Place (Google Maps, Lormax Stern, Getty Images, iStock)
From left: Lormax Stern's Daniel L. Stern and Christopher G. Brochert; Macy's CEO Jeffrey Gennette; former Carson's department store in Water Tower Place (Google Maps, Lormax Stern, Getty Images, iStock)

Macy’s is moving into a vacant suburban store – with tweaks to its business model to address pandemic-era challenges.

The retailer signed a lease for a two-story, 120,000-square-foot former Carson’s store that closed in 2020 in the southern Chicago suburb of Evergreen Park, Crain’s reported.

Macy’s, like other department stores, has made headlines for closures of large locations in the Chicago area, most notably its Water Tower Place mall spot on Michigan Avenue, a property that since had its keys turned back to its lender. Vacant department stores have proved difficult for landlords to fill, often requiring investment from owners to divide them into smaller spaces for new types of tenants or demolishing shopping strips to convert the property into new uses including housing.

Yet a joint venture of New York’s Fortress Investment Group and Michigan’s Lormax Stern landed Macy’s at the former Carson’s. The retailer plans two smaller-format stores at the property instead of one large outlet.

The first floor will hold a Market by Macy’s, the first Chicago-area location of the company’s new concept, which usually range from 20,000 to 58,000 square feet and mostly sell clothes and often swap change out their merchandise. The second floor will host a Macy’s Backstage, an off-price chain started in 2015.

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Fortress and Lormax last year sold most of the shopping strip known as Evergreen Plaza — the first regional mall in the country when it opened in 1952 and the second indoor one after a 1960s renovation — for $67 million and retained control of the vacant Carson’s.

Lormax in 2015 tore down the old mall and replaced it with the smaller retail center that now hosts Whole Foods Market, Burlington, T.J. Maxx, Planet Fitness and Ulta Beauty as its other tenants across 255,000 square feet.

A team of brokers led by Joe Parrott of CBRE represented the landlord in the lease, and another team headed by CBRE’s Luke Molloy represented Macy’s.

[Crain’s] — Sam Lounsberry

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