TAMPA, Fla. - When the pandemic hit in 2020, it delivered another blow to the already struggling retail industry. Westshore Plaza Mall in Tampa was closed for nearly two months, but not nearly as long as other malls owned by the Washington Prime Group.
Now, the Columbus Ohio-based company is facing financial fallout.
"For a lot of properties, this was the final nail in the coffin," said Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Ashley Kritzer. "COVID was kind of the final death blow for a lot of these online properties that couldn’t keep up with online shopping."
The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week so it can restructure and pay down $1 billion in debt.
Kritzer explains shoppers won’t see any difference.
"This is a financial issue, this isn’t an operations issue – there will be nothing different at Westshore Plaza," she said.
Whereas Chapter 7 bankruptcy would involve liquidating portfolios and selling everything off, Chapter 11 is much different.
"If you are a shopper at WestShore Plaza, or even an employee, this likely won’t affect you at all, and you won’t notice a difference," Kritzer continued.
Something different has been, however, in the works for years at the site – a mixed-use redevelopment project that would replace the Sears space and an expansion to include condos, apartments, office spaces, and a grocery store.
Kritzer says no timeline has been announced.
"I think the pandemic put it on hold. And obviously, there are some financial challenges, and what we’ll probably see when they do get ready to do it, we’ll see a new financial partner that comes in and partners with Washington Prime to make that project a reality," she said.
A spokesperson from Washington Prime Group provided the below statement on the matter to FOX 13 News:
"There will be no impact to operations, including active leasing and redevelopment, at WestShore Plaza. The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for many consumer-facing companies, including Washington Prime Group. The Company has determined that the Chapter 11 path is the most effective next step to resolve the Company’s outstanding indebtedness as we emerge from the pandemic. Throughout the Company’s Chapter 11 process, we expect business as usual at WestShore, where our tenants, sponsors and employees will continue operating as normal, with a focus on providing enjoyable experiences for our guests."