CLAY, N.Y. -- Opened in 1988, the Great Northern Mall is facing a great challenge in 2017.

"It's pretty decrepit," one shopper said. "It's kind of fallen apart around us. We kind of wish it was a little bit better out here."

The mall's parking lots sit largely empty. Many storefronts are the same way. Inside, there's ample room for shoppers and business -- but neither are in abundance.

"I think it's really a shame that these malls keep closing," shopper Kelly DiMillo said. "Shoppingtown, Great Northern, it's kind of forcing everybody that wants to go to a mall to go to Destiny, and not everybody likes that mall."

The question facing shoppers and businesses is what's happened. Retail experts give a variety of reasons. SU Whitman School of Management Associate Dean Amanda Nicholson said the Syracuse area is over-retailed, and other forms of retail, like a plaza, offers less commitment than a trip to the mall.

"The model of the malls like Shoppingtown and Great Northern, has not really changed much in decades, but our shopping habits have," Nicholson said.

Nicholson said Great Northern has to evolve to stay relevant, but if you ask shoppers what they want to see, it's often more of the same.

"I would like to see stores come back to the mall," DiMillo said. "It's a great location. I would just like to see stores come back." 

But retail experts said anchor stores are not the solution -- rather, they're part of the problem for malls like Great Northern. Nicholson said it will have to reinvent itself or become something else entirely to meet the needs of the shopper in 2017.