Retail trends taking toll on Lycoming Mall

One by one, the anchors that used to be the cornerstones of the Lycoming Mall are leaving.

In an era when on-line shopping has taken the on-site volume out of big-box stores, Macy’s and J.C. Penney have abandoned the mall. Sears will close in January.

Two other major anchors and three junior anchors remain, but it’s fair to wonder what their long-term future is.

The landscape of retail shopping has changed radically in the past decade and the malls are no longer the primary game in town when it comes to buying something. That’s not just here. It’s a national trend.

But in an area our size, everyone feels the pain a little more deeply.

The owners of the mall, Kohan Retail Investment Group, are appealing a Lycoming County Board of Assessment decision to deny its request for a lower tax assessment. Kohan purchased the site in 2016 for $26.35 million and the mall is assessed at $44.89 million.

Should the assessment for the property be lowered by half, the Muncy School District would lose $350,000 in annual tax revenue. Lycoming County government, which receives $252,935 in revenue from the mall, would lose tax revenue. Muncy Township, which receives $87,977 annually, would lose tax revenue.

Additionally, as stores at the mall close, the number of employees working at the mall is reduced, lessening the revenue from earned income taxes.

It’s not a pretty situation.

Perhaps the best solution is selling the mall property. The state recently gave localities in this region the right to operate casinos. Would this building, or a new structure at the same site, be an appropriate spot for such a use? In the competitive medical care field, would the site make sense as a location for something in that line of service?

Given the present reality and future trend for retail shopping, sale of the mall has to be considered from a business standpoint.

Certainly this is a sea change from the days when the shopping mall – here and everywhere else – was considered the crown jewel of the retail landscape.