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BLOOMINGTON, MN-Financial troubles among retailers is an increasing concern for owners and managers of Minnesota’s shopping centers, according to a new industry report. The Minnesota Shopping Center Association found in its 2001 survey of selected executives that “landlords are noting increases in unanticipated store closures due to bankruptcies and poor performance.”

The survey found that retailer bankruptcy ranked as the second-biggest challenge facing shopping centers, up five places from a year ago and surpassed only by concerns about real estate taxes — a perennial top concern despite historic tax reform by the Minnesota Legislature last session. In fact, despite facing higher taxes this year, many expect a decrease of 10% or more next year as the reform takes effect, according to the survey.

Among retailers whose financial troubles have affected Minnesota malls include Montgomery Ward at Northtown Mall in Blaine, Northern Reflections in Rosedale andMaplewood Mall and HomePlace at Southtown. Among those filing for bankruptcy were Lechters, and Video Update, the largest video rental chain in the Twin Cities.

“There is an overall concern in the marketplace as retail sales soften that there is a risk of additional bankruptcies,” says Larry Martin, co-chair of the research committee of the association.

While rising bankruptcies has climbed the problem chart, restoration and center redevelopment topped the list of opportunities for Minnesota shopping centers. That’s up from the No. 2 spot last year, and followed by:

* Mixed-use development.

* Infill opportunities or municipal redevelopment.

* Re-tenanting of vacant big boxes.

* New development.

The Minnesota Shopping Center Association is a group of about 500 members based in Bloomington, MN.

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