Malls of all sizes are having a tough time finding and keeping tenants.

CNN Money reported:

"In just the first quarter of 2009, retail tenants at these centers have vacated 8.7 million square feet of commercial space, according to the latest report from New York-based real estate research firm Reis.

"That number exceeds the 8.6 million square feet of retail space that was vacated in all of 2008.

"Reis' report shows that store vacancy rates at malls rose 9.5 percent in the first quarter, outpacing the 8.9 percent vacancy rate registered in all of 2008, and marking the largest single-quarter jump in vacancies since Reis began publishing quarterly figures in 1999."

In San Bernardino, Calif., the county government is looking at a troubled mall as a possible location for a government building.

If you intend to do a story about mall vacancies, take some time to read this article about how journalists often get the story wrong. Just because a tenant is gone does not mean he or she is not paying rent. And just because a store is open doesn't mean it's paying full rent.

The New York Times said malls are exploring new ways of filling space:

"A half-dozen malls across the country are planning to install a huge contraption called the Flowrider in vacant retail space. Where once people shopped for three-packs of underwear or sheet sets, they are now turning up in flip-flops and shorts to surf an artificial patch of ocean.

"However good a business that turns out to be for the company controlling the Flowrider, it is also a sign of the times. With major retail chains like Linens 'n Things and Circuit City closing stores or disappearing altogether, mall and shopping center vacancies are soaring, forcing landlords to find new ways to lure traffic and stave off decline.

"Downscale chains that landlords once kept out of shopping centers are suddenly being shown the welcome mat. Temporary stores are popping up. Once-small retailers are being invited to take over big spaces, while the strongest national chains are seizing the moment to move into new cities at low rents. And vast mall spaces formerly occupied by department stores may soon be carved up or turned into community colleges and dance studios."