The transformation of a portion of Independence Mall continued this year, with new stores and restaurants opening recently.
While the mall at 3500 Oleander Drive in Wilmington still has vacancies inside, businesses with outside entrances and in new buildings in the parking lot have been drawing more customers to the shopping center.
“The redevelopment has done wonderful things for our traffic,” said Helen Lewis, general manager of Independence Mall. “We’ve noticed a significant increase as we continue to complete stores in the streetscape area.”
In an outparcel building, Masa Sushi & Eastern Kitchen recently opened, and breakfast spot First Watch opened in the same area on the mall property last year. Aye! Toro, a Mexican restaurant, is expected to begin welcoming diners in the coming weeks, Lewis said.
Additionally, a second Wilmington location of CAVA, a Mediterranean restaurant, is planned in an outparcel building at the mall.
“The new restaurants have allowed us to feature a variety of new foods and unique menus. Not only do these restaurants bring different options for our current shoppers, but they attract new visitors to the center that may not have visited before,” she said. “The mall benefits from all guests that visit the property, whether they’re dining or shopping, and we’re pleased to have so many new and upcoming tenants to offer.”
Other recent openings include T-Mobile; Windsor, a women’s clothing, shoes and accessories store; and Zumiez, which sells clothing and more for men and women.
“In the Dick’s Sporting Goods area, we expect Spectrum to be open by the end of the year. European Wax Center and F-45 Fitness are both under construction. We will provide a better idea of their opening dates when we have them,” Lewis said.
Although the news is good for some parts of Independence Mall, where the closed Sears store and wing were replaced by a Lidl grocery store and other exterior-facing tenants, the 1,000 malls that still exist in the U.S. face an uncertain future. An oft-quoted report by Moody’s Analytics predicts 20% of all of those malls will be sold or repurposed in the future.
Much of Independence Mall, which opened in 1979, sold in 2017 to Rouse Properties, a subsidiary of Brookfield Properties, after the previous owner defaulted on a $110 million loan.
“Independence Mall has anchored the midtown retail scene on Oleander Drive for the past four decades,” said Hansen Matthews, a partner in Wilmington-based commercial real estate firm Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Co. “Judging from the parking lot, the recent addition of new stores facing Oleander Drive has increased customer traffic. Even the parking lot facing Independence Boulevard seems like it has more cars than a couple of years ago.”