City will move ahead to the next retail era
Logansport Mayor Dave Kitchell keeps a framed edition of the Logansport Press account of a 1966 fire that destroyed a former J.C. Penney store downtown.
“It was an epic fire that spread to eight stores and is the reason to this day why the northwest corner of Fourth and Market is a parking lot,” Kitchell says. Fortunately, no one died.
While the fire signaled a major problem for downtown that led then Mayor Oscar Beasey to declare a city disaster and seek federal aid, Kitchell said it represented an era that ended as much as the current situation with J.C. Penney. Its era ends in June when Penney’s, one of the nation’s oldest retailers, will close its Logansport Mall location.
“For the employees, this is a difficult time and I’ve asked Bill Cuppy from the Logansport-Cass County Economic Development Organization to work with Penney’s personnel to support them in whatever way we can. But while they are finding other jobs, we have to do ours, which is to further the next retail environment for the east end of Logansport.”
Kitchell said the city was not notified by Penney’s of the announcement.
“I spoke with a corporate official at the Penney’s office in Plano, Texas, on Friday,” Kitchell said. “Obviously, Penney’s is in the middle of major restructuring and the economic conditions for major retailers are not prime for retention and expansion. What we saw just a couple of years ago with Borders has now spread to Gordman’s, H.H. Gregg and Gander Mountain, and I would anticipate more restructuring and store closings as corporate America tweaks its theories on success in chain retailing.”
Penney’s is the last original anchor tenant of the Logansport Mall, which opened nearly 50 years ago. Penney’s has been in Logansport for 93 years.
The mayor said he has been in ongoing discussions with the Illinois bank that owns the mall, as well as its broker and firms interested in redeveloping the mall and attracting new retail activity.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Kitchell said. “It will take some time to retool this site for a new era of retail in Logansport. But it will happen.”
SOURCE: News release from Logansport Mayor Dave Kitchell