First - malls are a different world than street front or free standing retail so using one as a proxy for the other is a crude measure at best. Second, real estate has always been about location. If your buildings were in Manhattan, NY instead of Manhattan, CA, chances are you would not be suffering remt declines. Rents in NYC in the most desirable areas are back to record highs, (although there are some spots around the city where filling vacancy is a challenge).
Malls are on a similar track - good malls in strong markets are prospering with declining vacancy and increasing rents; secondary properties in lesser markets continue to struggle. SPG's portfolio has a lot more winners than losers and its size and dominance allows the company to package multiple deals which helps to keep weaker assets leased.
" 20 mall owners each signing 25 new deals at their properties"... You forgot "at lower rents"...I just renegotiated three leases in Manhattan Beach CA, and after having my attorney verify the revenue declines at each property I was advised to lower the rents since there is very little demand for retail space at current rates. Credit bubbles cause distortions that take a long time to rectify.
"General Growth Properties Inc. (GGP), the second-largest U.S. mall owner, said that its funds from operations excluding some items may rise to as much as $1.03 a share next year as occupancies rise. "
Apparently not overly concerned about the pending loss of some Pac Sunwear stores.