Intersection of growth and decline: MWC retail center successful despite downfall of nearby mall

The nearly vacant Heritage Park Mall in Midwest City hasn’t created a decline in its neighboring retail center.

The Town & Country shopping center on N. Air Depot Boulevard is 90 percent occupied. The only vacancy was left after Payless shoe store closed its location in the center.

The center is at N. Air Depot and Reno Avenue, just across the street east of the mall.

“I think that’s an area that’s in transition,” said Robert Coleman, economic development director for the city of Midwest City. “I think it’s beginning to see an upswing after many years in decline.”

The 133,131-square-foot center is anchored by Ross Dress for Less and Westlake Ace Hardware. There’s also a 0.43-acre outparcel that is available for lease.

Price Edwards & Co. has overseen the center’s leasing for about three years. Senior Vice President Jim Parrack said the center has been able to remain successful because it’s surrounded by good retail fundamentals, which are many rooftops and high traffic counts.

Coleman said other retailers have noticed the vehicles and residential density as well, so they’ve opened close to the intersection. Open Flame Coffee Co. and Roastery opened in December 2018 on S. Air Depot Boulevard, south of Reno Avenue. The state’s first Taco Casa also opened on S. Air Depot Boulevard.

“We’re seeing a big resurgence in the area,” Coleman said.

But a map of the Reno and Air Depot intersection shows the same challenge other cities are seeing. There’s a large empty space on the map where the nearly vacant mall sits on 39 acres. The main tenant in the 650,000 building is Life.Church. The church owns its 100,000-square-foot space. The vacant 144,000-square-foot Sears space was owned by the company.

Ahmad Bahreini owns about 232,000 square feet of the 650,000-square-foot building. He purchased the space in 2011 for $1.3 million. Despite ongoing promises to bring in retailers, there’s little activity in his portion.

“If something happened with the mall, then the whole area would be in a much-quicker rebound,” Coleman said.

Midwest City isn’t the only smaller municipality facing a mall issue. Enid’s Oakwood Mall has seen a decline in tenancy as stores move into newer storefronts along Owen K. Garriott Road.

Lawton also has had tenants leave its mall, though in the last 10 years, two national-tenant-anchored shopping centers have opened in the city.

During a retail presentation in Enid, retail consultant Rickey Hayes said stores prefer to have front-door parking where shoppers don’t have to walk past other stores to find them. He said he didn’t think Enid’s mall would ever be a traditional mall again.

Parrack said companies looking at the Town & Country shopping center are first attracted by the traffic counts and area incomes.

“The mall raises a red flag,” he said. “(The vacancy) makes them do a little more research, but once they see the numbers are still there, they’ll do the deal.”