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February 5, 2014

KITCHELL: Will there be more mall life after Sears?

It is more than a little ironic that more than 40 years after Sears & Roebuck, J.C. Penney, Woolworth’s and Bickel’s left downtown Logansport for the winter-proof Logansport Mall, Sears has announced in the middle of one of the coldest winters in years that it’s closing its mall store.

When the mall opened, Sears and J.C. Penney were the veritable bookends of the mall, and continue to be. In the years that followed, the mall changed owners, the corporate icon that was Sears grew out of its holdings from Allstate Insurance to the Discover Card. Even the Sears Tower, the tallest building in Chicago, gave up its name as Sears downshifted in an increasingly competitive retail world occupied by the expansion of Target, Kohl’s, Meijer and that upstart Arkansas discount heaven known as Walmart.

Generations have come and gone since Sears moved from the present site of The Gray Mill at Fifth and Broadway to the east end. At the time, the moves sent shockwaves to downtown, leaving it as the haunt of the century-old Golden Rule department store, assorted women’s clothing and shoe stores and the remnants of what had been the retail center of Logansport for most of the 20th century.

But that was yesterday.

The main question now is what happens to the mall and the people who depend on the tax revenue the mall generates for local government and schools.

The real tragedy of this situation is that as much as manufacturing has benefited from tax abatement and the County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) revenue to add employees, expand facilities and purchase equipment, economic development has done little to benefit retailers in this community over a number of years. The former Big R Store on East Market was an exception, but it eventually left.

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