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With the JCPenney store at Hickory Point Mall in Forsyth closing in early May, the future of the space where it had been remains in question. The store had long been one of the anchors at the mall. VonMaur, Bergner's, Kohl's and Sears remain the shopping center's anchors. A mix of other stores are situated in between, giving shoppers a variety of choices to do their shopping, but it doesn't always seem to be enough to satisfy everyone.

The mall has undergone several other changes in recent years with more plans announced for the future. The biggest addition thus far is the facility's owner, CBL Properties, saying it plans to add a ULTA Beauty store with 8,349 square feet of space later this year. Yet not everybody seems to find what they're looking for at the mall, opting instead to drive to places like Springfield and Champaign to look around. If the mall is going to be successful in the future, the trick appears to be finding a wider range of choices that will keep those living in the area closer to home. Having the Old Navy store leave a few years ago has been among the more noticeable losses.

CBL President and CEO Stephen Lebovitz said in January when JCPenney announced plans to close what it called 33 underperforming stores, including four at CBL-owned facilities, that revedeveloping anchor locations would be a priority. With the JCPenney closure in mind, CBL has been proactively engaging in discussions and gauging retail demand, Lebovitz said. Interest in the closed locations has been strong, he said. The list of retailers interested in the locations include sporting goods, arts and crafts and other box retailers, Lebovitz said. The companies interested in the locations would enhance the performance of the malls overall, he said.

There would appear to be a number of options for the JCPenney space that would fit well into the Decatur shopping market. Having a well-known retailer locate at the mall could create a lot of excitement for those in the area. The sooner a decision can be made, the better it would be for everybody involved, including the village of Forsyth, which relies heavily on sales tax revenue to keep its operations going. The village had already seen its sale tax revenue drop off slightly even before JCPenney closed, raising some concern among village board members about what would happen if the numbers drop farther.

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​clusvardi@herald-review.com|(217) 421-7972

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