Sobered by store closings and the rise of online shopping, owners of U.S. shopping centers are filling space and drawing visitors by turning to unusual tenants like gun ranges and go-cart tracks.
Mall giant Simon Property Group Inc. opened an aquarium in July at its Grapevine Mills mall near Dallas. Real-estate brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. put a fencing academy in a former Old Navy store in Florida’s Tallahassee Mall, and a community theater on the lower level of a former Boscov’s store in Harrisburg, Pa.
Aqua Tots Holdings LLC, a business that teaches youngsters to swim, has expanded to 14 locations in Arizona, Texas and Georgia and has 10 more on the way, nearly all in former retail shops. Jumpstreet, an indoor trampoline facility, is buying or leasing former grocery stores, filling them wall-to-wall with trampolines and charging patrons for hourly access.
Perhaps the most unusual use of a former big-box store is William James’s Arms Room gun shop and shooting range, which opened last year in a former Circuit City store south of Houston. Mr. James spent nearly $5 million to buy the 20,000-square-foot space and convert it into a shooting range, a price he considered a bargain compared with building from scratch. The Arms Room offers handgun training courses in addition to traditional shooting practice, all in a popular shopping center anchored by
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