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Regency Mall

After the closing in recent months of J.C. Penney at Regency Mall, the space is now expected to be divided up among several other stores.

RACINE — The Illinois real estate company which bought the former J.C. Penney store space has begun to fill it with “junior” box stores, as previously promised.

David Israel, president of Northbrook, Ill.-based real estate company Learsi & Co., on Monday announced the signing of long-term leases with Ross Dress for Less and Party City, which together will take 40,000 square feet of the first floor’s 65,000 square feet.

He declined to name a third retail tenant yet but said negotiations are complete and that tenant will take about 22,000 square feet to fill the entire first floor.

When Penney closed early this year, the mall lost an anchor it had had since Regency opened in 1981. In November, when the closing announcement was made, Israel of Learsi said his company had bought the two-story property for $2.2 million and would likely carve it up for several different retail tenants.

On Wednesday, Learsi goes to the Racine Plan Commission seeking approval to split the store as planned. The commission’s recommendation would go to the City Council July 7, and Israel said construction will start as soon as he has city approval.

The leases call for Learsi to turn over a built-out store to Party City by Nov. 15 for an opening before year’s end, and to Ross Dress for Less by next February for an opening about next March, he said.

Each of the three tenants will have its own exterior entrance, Israel said.

The second floor of what was Penney is unsuitable for more retail, he said, and will likely become back-office space.

“We are happy to welcome these new retailers to Regency Mall and are excited for our customers to have these additional shopping options at the mall,” said Sean Phillips, regional marketing director for CBL & Associates which owns Regency Mall.

Party City will be the Racine area’s second such store; the existing one is at Racine Centre shopping center, 5201 Washington Ave. Parent company Party City Holdco says Party City is the leading party goods retailer in North America and the largest vertically integrated supplier of decorated party goods globally.

Dublin, Calif.-based Ross Dress for Less did not respond to requests for information in time for publication, but on its website states it is “the nation’s largest off-price retail chain” and promises 20 to 60 percent off department store prices daily.

Area Ross stores include one in Waukegan, Ill., and one in Gurnee, Ill. Israel said Ross is expanding rapidly and his company is also building a store for the company in the Milwaukee area.

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