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Oak Park Mall owner CBL & Associates Properties Inc. emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month, eliminating about $1.7 billion in debt and preferred obligations.

“It puts CBL in a much stronger position financially. … It gives us the financial flexibility we need to execute on our strategy moving forward,” Stacey Keating, CBL’s vice president of corporate communications, told the Kansas City Business Journal.

That strategy includes diversifying properties by finding new uses for underperforming anchor spaces, she said. Former Sears spaces, for example, are being filled with tenants such as Scheels All Sports, Main Event and a grocery store. At one mall, CBL opened a Hollywood Casino and is adding a Life Storage. Keating said CBL also is looking at uses such as hotels and education.

Oak Park Mall anchor tenant Nordstrom plans to relocate to the Country Club Plaza in 2023, and CBL’s development team is mulling a variety of ideas, said Karla Rocker Engel, the mall’s senior general manager. Nothing is set in stone, however, and she declined to discuss potential options.   

CBL, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, owns Oak Park Mall through a joint venture with financial services firm Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association. CBL’s portfolio spans 24 states and 105 properties, including malls and open-air retail centers.