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Nearly 1 Out Of 5 Stores Are Empty Surrounding SouthPark Mall

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As Ben Franklin Crafts in Moline closes, local shoppers may notice a trend in that area.

Out of an unofficial count of 95 store spots that circle SouthPark Mall, 17 are empty equaling 18% vacancy in that area.

Some shoppers see the "For Sale/Lease" signs and empty windows as a bad sign for the economy.

"It's a case of the smaller places just can't survive it," says Kathy Qualls from Milan, Illinois.

"It's because of the real big stores," says Charlie Klein. "They're the ones that put the other ones out of business."

However, local realtors see the vacancies as a good thing.

"The owners don't like to see them empty, but there's activity on all of those strips right now and we're looking for some things to be opening up before too long," says Richard Weinstein, Vice President of NAI Ruhl Commercial Company.

"We think it's an opportunity," he says. "We think 2014 is going to be a really good year. Interest rates are still low and it's really a matter of confidence, especially for retail."

Weinstein says he hopes that confidence will grow even more if a plan to demolish, renovate, and improve parts of SouthPark mall becomes reality.

On Tuesday, February 18th, 2014, Moline City Council failed to pass the plan. Some of the aldermen say they have finance concerns. The item will be back on the agenda for next week's meeting.

As for Ben Franklin Crafts, a liquidation sale began on Wednesday, February 19th, 2014. The Store Manager says the sale will continue until every item is gone. Owners of Ben Franklin Crafts have said the economy is one reason they are closing.