Neighborhood shopping centers battered by store vacancies are finding solace in churches.
As retailers consolidate and shrink the number and sizes of their stores, retail center landlords, especially in weaker markets, are being forced to consider a wider range of prospective tenants that might not fit the conventional retail mold. Among them: houses of worship.
“Having a church becomes an asset because it creates a mixed-use space,” said Rodney Arnold, pastor at OneLife Church, based in Powell, Tenn. The church leases space both in Powell Place Shopping Center and at a building near Knoxville Center Mall in Knoxville.
Until recently, property owners have turned mainly to theaters, restaurants, medical and wellness clinics, and bowling alleys to fill space formerly occupied by retailers that have been plagued by the shift to online shopping and changing consumer tastes.