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Empty Strip Malls a Common Sight in Las Vegas | Business

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Empty Strip Malls a Common Sight in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS - Five years ago, customers flocked to the shopping center on the corner of Lake Mead and Jones. Now, the retail center is a virtual ghost town. The only people in the parking lot are teens on skateboards. The Albertson's supermarket closed more than a year ago. The rest of the nearby businesses soon followed.

Tony's Mexican Restaurant is one of the few places still open. But, restaurant manager Elvira Gonzales says with fewer people visiting the area, her business is struggling. Gonzales says customers are noticing that more and more shops are shutting down. "Stuff that was here before, I mean most of it's gone," she said. "A lot of customers say just last week, they drove by a place they used to go (to) before, and now it's not there."

Economic analyst John Restrepo studies the commercial real estate market. He says easy financing for developers years ago led to Las Vegas being overbuilt. That boom is now hurting valley business. "The challenge is so much commercial real estate was built during the boom," he said. "When you get money thrown at you, it's hard to say no." Restrepo says that overdevelopment, combined with a drop in consumer spending, is creating empty strip malls like the one on Jones and Lake Mead. "You'll see the remaining tenants typically bail out on their leases, or try and re-negotiate their leases, or just shutting down," he said.

Gonzales hopes for the sake of her businesses and those around her, that the trend will change. "Right now, what we are surviving off of is people who know that we are here for a while," she said. Otherwise, she fears she could become another casualty of the recession. "(We're) just not knowing what's next or what's going to happen, if we are going to still be able to be here or what's going to happen," she said.

Restrepo says it's too early to tell when the market will rebound, but he says the market appears to be stabilizing for now.