Chattanooga shopping center operator CBL reporting more customers, bounce-back from pandemic

Staff photo by Mike Pare / Shoppers enter Northgate Mall in Hixson. The center is owned and operated by Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates Properties Inc.

Shopping center developer and operator CBL Properties on Tuesday posted higher first quarter earnings compared to a year ago mostly due to declining interest payments related to its bankruptcy petition.

Still, the Chattanooga-based company said a bounce-back in the economy from the pandemic is benefiting its properties, which include both Hamilton Place and Northgate malls in Chattanooga.

"Customer traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels and spending levels were certainly helped by stimulus checks and tax refunds," said CBL Chief Executive Stephen Lebovitz. "Leasing activity is picking up as sales and traffic levels improve. Rent collections have increased to 89% of gross rents and accounts receivable are decreasing as well."

Funds from operations, as adjusted per diluted share, was 34 cents for the first quarter of 2021, compared with 26 cents per share for the first quarter a year ago, the company reported.