Markland Mall Remodel

Brett Aucoin and Brad Riggs, working for Huston Electric, install exit signs and lighting at the new entrance to Markland Mall, where Sears used to be located, on Sept. 5, 2018.

A sporting-goods retailer is likely moving into the Markland Mall space formerly occupied by Carson’s, a representative with the company that owns the mall revealed this week.

The move would fill an anchor site situated along 17th Street and resolve a 60,000-square-foot space within Markland Mall that has been without a permanent tenant since Carson’s closed more than a year ago.

Ryan VandeBosche, senior director for development with Washington Prime Group, the parent owner of Markland Mall, told the Kokomo City Board of Zoning Appeals Tuesday evening that “we are in the middle of lease negotiations with … a 60,000-square-foot tenant to take the former Carson’s box that’s been vacant for some time now.”

VandeBosche, who did not reveal the name of the potential tenant, said it is a “retail sporting-goods tenant that’s already located within the market and would be looking to expand their store.”

He was in front of the BZA to obtain a special exception allowing the incoming store to sell firearms, similar to what was approved for MC Sports when it was located in Markland Mall.

The special exception was unanimously approved by BZA members on the condition that if the unnamed tenant ever leaves Markland Mall, the approval to sell firearms at the site will also end.

“This is obviously a very difficult site for us on the back of the mall, so we’re thrilled to bring them on board and further solidify the mall long-term,” added VandeBosche, who did not provide a specific timeline.

“This is our lone remaining box space available and we’d like to get this addressed and solidify the mall long-term, along with what we did with the Sears redevelopment, obviously.”

He acknowledged the move would be a relocation for the mall’s incoming tenant, “although it would be a sizable expansion versus their current location.”

“The proposed sports-retail tenant currently operates in a nearby location within the same zoning district,” he added, noting gun sales would include less than 1% of the company’s sales-floor area.

“In addition, this tenant will make a multi-million-dollar investment into the mall by filling a vacant 60,000-square-foot box,” while the exception allows “a successful sports retailer already located within the community to expand their business in the local market,” remarked VandeBosch.

He noted that “sporting-goods retailers such as the one being proposed are commonly found as anchors or junior anchors to mall properties.”

While VandeBosche was careful not to reveal the name of the incoming tenant, all signs point toward Dunham’s Sports filling the void left by Carson’s.

Dunham’s – currently located in Southway Plaza on the city’s south end, less than 3 miles from Markland Mall – is, after the closure of MC Sports in 2017, the most prominent place to buy sporting goods in Kokomo. The store also sells firearms.

A manager at the local Dunham’s store directed the Tribune to its corporate marketing office. A corporate official did not return a request for comment.

News first spread in spring 2018 that Carson’s at Markland Mall was headed for closure after Bon-Ton, the parent company of Carson’s, requested a federal bankruptcy court approve liquidation. Bon-Ton had already filed bankruptcy earlier in the year.

The move spelled trouble for hundreds of stores across the nation, including the one in Kokomo.

Kokomo’s Carson’s store ultimately closed in late August 2018 and has since been occupied by temporary tenants, like a seasonal Halloween store.

Carson’s was first announced as a new occupant and anchor store in Markland Mall in 2011, occupying the prominent 60,000-square-foot spot in the mall.

Still, Markland Mall, in contrast to the Carson’s closure and the decay of malls across America, has welcomed a swarm of new businesses in recent years.

They include, in part, Prodigy Burger & Bar, Aldi, Party City, PetSmart, Ross Dress for Less and OshKosh B’gosh. In addition, Panda Express has taken over a pad out front of the mall along Indiana 931.

Much of that space was made available by the closing and subsequent demolition of Sears, which was one of the original tenants of the Markland Mall when it opened in 1968; it shut its doors for good in March 2017.

“To invest in it and redevelop it and keep changing, it keeps everybody’s attention. And that’s just what we’re trying to do – is keep everybody’s attention,” former Markland Mall and Plaza General Manager James Radabaugh told the Tribune in a previous interview.

George Myers can be reached at 765-454-8585, by email at george.myers@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @gmyerskt.

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George Myers covers city and county government. He joined the Kokomo Tribune on November 18, 2014.

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