TAMPA (970 WFLA) -- The headlines are scary. One source says half the nation's shopping malls may close in five years. But the head of a commercial real estate organization is disputing reports of a "retail apocalypse" blamed on people shopping online and certain stores closing or filing for bankruptcy.
Brian Andrus with the Florida Gulf Coast Commercial Association of Realtors says shopping malls are responding to the changing profile of retail.
In one example, Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater changed when Sears decided to scale back its anchor store. "Sears reduced its footprint by half and they brought in a Whole Foods market, which has been very successful."
Andrus says reports that point to retail stores closing and jobs going away, fail to take into account that many online retailers are adding brick and mortar space, such as Amazon's huge order fulfillment warehouse in Ruskin. Andrus is aware of local online business that are acquiring commercial property as they continue to grow.
To communities worried about streets lined with boarded-up business, Andrus has this message. "Don't try to be urban planners... provide safe streets, infrastructure... then step out of the way... the private sector will want to do things."
Photo: Florida Gulf Coast Commercial Association of Realtors