Despite the departure of a major chain store in Janesville, city officials said the retail sector is growing.
Most residents remain optimistic the storefront soon to be vacated by J.C. Penney won't sit vacant for very long. J.C. Penney, one of the anchors of the Janesville mall, will close its doors in May.
"I'll miss it, but not like I would have if it had gone out 10 years ago," said Janesville resident Marilyn Heerey.
More than 70 employees will be looking for work when the store closes, but Warren Smith remains optimistic about the area's economy.
"I'm disappointed, but I think Janesville is going to survive. Janesville got over the whole General Motors situation," Smith said.
Julie Cubbage, general manager of the Janesville Mall, said their parent company CBL is actively looking for another retailer to fill the 140,000-square-foot space.
"I don't think it's going to be dark. I think there's going to be activity right away," Cubbage said.
In 2013, six new retailers came to the mall. With the exception of two storefronts, all the available space at the mall is being rented.
"There's been a lot of interest in the Janesville market and that's all very positive," Cubbage said. "It's positive for the mall and positive for the community."
Ryan Garcia, the city's economic development coordinator, said J.C. Penney's location and size will be attractive to another retailer.
"J.C. Penney has been here over 90 years," Garcia said.
He said retail development has kicked in to high gear in the last six to nine months.
"We're seeing retail growth that's unprecedented, especially in recent years. It's very strong as far as redeveloped spaces that maybe were vacant for some time," Garcia said.
Garcia said city leaders will work with mall management to find a replacement for J.C. Penney.
Adel Smith said people need to support whatever comes to the mall to keep the local economy growing.
"I don't think it's going to hurt Janesville anymore. Janesville is a good town to be in. I'm looking forward to another store to replace Penneys," Smith said.
CBL, the company that owns the Janesville Mall, also owns several malls in other states. In addition to filling the vacancy in Janesville, it will need to find a retailer to fill the vacant spaces at some of their other malls also losing J.C. Penney stores.
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