S.C. lawmaker proposes offering incentives to revamp empty malls

Revamping Malls

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - While malls and shopping centers along the Grand Strand were bustling over the popular holiday shopping weekend, retail analysts at ShopperTrak are still noticing a decline in foot traffic.

The report shows Black Friday traffic dropped 6.2 percent this year.

Local commercial real estate experts said there’s a change in consumer habits these days, with many not going to traditional brick-and-mortar stores. With no sign of online sales slowing down anytime soon, many malls across the country are left with empty space, including right here along the Grand Strand.

State Rep. Marvin Pendarvis (R-Charleston) believes there’s still a future for malls if they’re repurposed to serve the surrounding communities.

That’s why Pendarvis has pre-filed a bill, the South Carolina Malls Revitalization Act, that would allow for certain tax credits for rehabilitating malls into mixed-use, mixed-income spaces geared toward pedestrian traffic. When it comes to the vision, the representative believes malls can be redeveloped for things other than retail. He cites such as examples as public transit and housing.

“You’ve got examples in Columbia, you’ve got examples in the Upstate of long-standing malls that have been around for decades, but they have not seen the kind of activity that they once did,” said Pendarvis.

Through the proposed bill, tax credits would go to someone who rehabs, renovates or redevelops a mall with at least 50 percent closed businesses or space. Under the bill, the tax credit would cover 25 percent of the rehabilitation costs for the malls.

Adam Cates, president of Tradd Commercial, said with the Grand Strand being a tourist-driven area, it’s the experience people are looking for and businesses like restaurants, outdoor shopping centers and attractions such as Topgolf are what thrive.

Pendarvis’ proposal comes as both the Inlet Square Mall and Myrtle Beach Mall have faced a decline in foot traffic over the years. Both already have major redevelopment projects on the table that look to keep up with the evolving retail industry.

Cates said he’s in support of the bill and is looking forward to how it will help improve empty mall spaces in the future. Still, he notes there’s at least one drawback.

“It would be awesome if they added to the bill the ability that someone who owns the property to have the ability to take advantage of this tax incentive as well, I think. I don’t see it necessarily forcing the hand of somebody that has a property because you’re not going to say, ‘Oh, I’m just going to sell my chief asset,’ or ‘I’m going to sell this giant asset because of this tax credit,’ but I do think in terms of kicking off some development and in terms of creating a buzz around some of these centers, I think it would help if they extended that tax credit to people that hold the real estate, not just if you sell your property to someone else. The buyer gets to take advantage of this,” said Cates.

The bill was pre-filed this month and was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means. It will be considered during the next legislative session in January.

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