PEKIN — Store closing signs are attracting attention at Pekin’s Rue 21 and Gold Crown Hallmark stores in the East Court Village I, both closings due to corporate issues within those chains.
But, Rue 21 could stay in Pekin.
“They are going through a bit of a restructuring,” said Cullinan Properties Ltd. Director of Marketing Anaise Berry. “We’re optimistic that they will be able to work things out and quite possibly be able to keep their doors open in Pekin.
“We are negotiating with them, in talks with them, currently about how we can make that happen for them. It just takes us all getting a little more creative and trying to come to a meeting of the minds to make it work.”
Berry said developers are facing a challenging environment.
“Things are definitely changing, but we’re also trying to stay ahead of that change and adapt to it,” said Berry. “As a company, we look to expand our property beyond just retail.
“We look for creative, innovative uses for store fronts. Pekin’s a good example of that when you look at the OSF Center for Health Care-Pekin facility that just opened in one of our spaces there. And what a great use of space that is and fitting a need in the medical community and providing a different kind of service at East Court Village that isn’t just tied to retail.”
The OSF facility went into the space vacated by Big Lots in 2014.
Berry said the medical facilities there, the OSF facility, Fresenius Kidney Care Pekin and Heartland Health Services, provide traffic for the retailers at the mall.
“By having what we call a mixed use environment it draws people who wouldn’t possibly have gone to the property in the first place,” said Berry. “It draws them for a different reason.
“So it’s definitely a good thing. It is a challenging time, but there are also plenty of strong retailers who are out there that are succeeding, that are successful and also adapting to the changing times. We’ve always got a dialog going with potential retail tenants for our property, including East Court.”
Berry said the larger anchors have done very well — Bergner’s and Hobby Lobby. Bergner’s has a lease through 2022. In 2012, it invested $5.8 million of its own funds to remodel its store. An additional $2 million was borrowed from the city for projects at the mall.
City Manager Tony Carson said the city is working to build retail in the community.
“It’s from a corporate standpoint,” said Carson. “It’s unfortunate that a couple of the businesses are closing, but it’s not specific to Pekin — it’s just from a corporate standpoint that’s what’s happening for those chains.
“We’ve been in contact with Cullinan. I actually met with them twice over the past couple of months to continually work with them to identify new tenants, for not only that area, but for any empty parcels that they have and out lots. We’re going to be working together with them.”
Carson said the city’s economic team is using the city’s new ESRI Business Analyst Program it obtained earlier this year to seek out businesses for the community — not just East Court Village. The program provides demographic and analytical data to show the city what businesses to target based on the company’s own criteria for locating to a community.
“It’s an ongoing process,” said Carson. “It’s not something you do once and stop — you’re continually doing it.
“Sometimes it takes a long time to see results, but we’re hopeful that if we continue with what we’re doing we’re going to see some positive results.”
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin