BLOOMINGTON — CBL Properties is anticipating the closure of the Bergner's stores in its malls in Bloomington and Forsyth.
Bergner's parent company, The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., is apparently headed to dissolution after the only two bidders in a court-supervised auction on Monday were liquidators, according to a report from Reuters.
"We are certainly disappointed with the outcome, but this is an opportunity to continue to evolve our properties through transformative anchor redevelopments," said CBL in an emailed statement Tuesday. The Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company owns Eastland and Hickory Point malls, among others.
A spokesman for Bon-Ton did not respond to requests for comment.
In addition to Bergner's, Bon-Ton operates department stores under the brand names of Carson's, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's, Boston Store, Younkers and Bon-Ton.
Bon-Ton filed for bankruptcy in February after announcing a month earlier that it planned to close more than 40 nationwide locations. Those included seven stores in Illinois: six Carson's outlets in Aurora, Chicago, Danville, DeKalb, Morton Grove and Schaumburg, and the Bergner's store in Peoria.
"We have been following this situation closely, but have not yet been informed by Bon-Ton of a timeline for store closures," said CBL.
Shoppers and others at the Eastland Mall on Tuesday morning expressed similar disappointment with the apparent closure of Bergner's.
"It's sad to see it," said Streator resident Jack Kerner as he sat on a bench outside the Bergner's store at the Bloomington mall while waiting for his wife to finish shopping. "I hate to see any store close. These malls are getting useless almost because there's no stores any more. People are losing their jobs. It's because of the online shopping."
Rick Phillipe transferred from Champaign in 1969 to the Sears store at Eastland, and his wife once worked at Bergner's.
"We used to have car shows in here. They don't do anything in here now; they don't attract anybody," said Phillippe, who retired 12 years ago and comes daily to the mall to walk four laps.
"This is a beautiful mall. You have a lot of people walking, but most of them aren't buying," he added. "It's all online shopping. They're not collecting local taxes. Our streets are going to you-know-what. The government needs to do something about it."
CBL started the year with 16 Bon-Ton stores in its malls across the country.
"Two closures were announced initially, and CBL has a lease executed for one of those spaces with more details to come soon," said the company. "Of the 14 locations, 10 are leased and the remainder are owned by others."
Eastland Mall, Hickory Point and the CherryVale Mall in Rockford are the three CBL properties in Illinois impacted by Bon-Ton's stores closing.
"We control all three of these spaces. We have been working on contingency plans for each center impacted," CBL added.
CBL said it was in advanced negotiations for several replacements, but did not disclose if the Eastland and Hickory Point malls were sites where those talks are being conducted.
CBL added it has a long track record of "successfully replacing or redeveloping anchor locations."
Over the last three years and including projects currently underway, CBL has executed on over 40 redevelopment projects, transforming underperforming space into retail, dining and entertainment destinations that increase sales and traffic to their properties.
Macy's and J.C. Penney both closed last year. Two other anchors, Kohl's and Sears, remain open.
Part of the former J.C. Penney store will be filled by Planet Fitness and family clothing retailer H&M. Outback Steakhouse also will move from the Lakewood Plaza shopping center to a new building being constructed at the mall.
"Planet Fitness and H&M are currently under construction and will celebrate grand openings prior to the 2018 holiday season," said CBL. "We will share more detailed grand opening information, including dates and related events, later this year."
Redevelopment plans continue to be evaluated for the former Macy's store "that would include a new retail option for the property," said CBL. "We will share more detailed information as leases are finalized."