Worries over Shoppingtown Mall’s future
The Town of DeWitt says, for its future budget plans, it desperately needs to know what the future holds for the Shoppingtown Mall, one of the town's largest sources of tax revenue. YNN's Bill Carey says a lack of answers from the mall's owner have left town officials worried and reaching out to Washington for support.
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ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- For years, Shoppingtown Mall has been in decline. The number of stores in operation falling. The mall itself showing signs of its age.
That's why officials were optimistic when new owners took control of the property in January. But when they reached out to that new company, LNR Property of Florida, to find out its future plans, they heard nothing in reply.
“What everyone fears is that it will just decline without any activity. And, again, it's a great location. It's a great asset to the Town of DeWitt to the benefit of the residents here, the county. I think we'd like to see it grow and flourish,” DeWitt Town Councilor Irene Scruton said.
Officials in the Town of DeWitt want to see the future plans for the mall because they'll directly affect just how much money is coming in to the town coffers and, in turn, the shape of future budgets.
So now the town has reached out to New York's senior U.S. Senator, hoping Charles Schumer's intervention might add to the pressure for LNR to talk about what it plans to do.
Schumer said, “The business owners, residents and taxpayers here in DeWitt need answers and need them now, about the future of this mall. And it's unfair to make us wait any longer.”
The Senator admits to being frustrated as well. His office has attempted to reach the management of LNR, but to no avail. The town says whatever the plan may be, it simply wants to help.
DeWitt Town Supervisor Edward Michalenko said, “We are willing to cooperate and negotiate with the owners and work towards a redevelopment plan. And in that process, we're willing to bring state, federal and local resources to the table.”
Schumer says the silence is troubling.
“And the fact that this company purchased this mall obviously means they have something in mind. They spent millions of dollars. Now let's hope nothing changed,” Schumer said.
The town says the future of its budget and its tax bills depend on the answers.
Standard and Poor's, the financial rating service, on Thursday changed its outlook for LNR Property from "stable" to "developing." S & P says it believes the company's owners are preparing to sell the company. The rating firm says it is too soon to tell if that will hurt or help the company's long term outlook.
Since his appearance in DeWitt, LRN Partners has reached out to Senator Schumer's office to arrange a potential meeting.
LNR partners released a statement that reads:
“LNR Partners is a special servicer acting on behalf of the CMBS Trust that holds the defaulted loan on the ShoppingTown Mall. We took possession of the property on behalf of the trust in January of 2012. A CMBS Trust is precluded under IRS regulations from undertaking a long-term redevelopment of the complex. Rather, it is our responsibility to serve as responsible stewards of the property, identify possible avenues of increasing value and market it for eventual sale to outside developers.
“In this capacity, we have continued to make all local tax payments when due, while also investing in the upkeep of the mall and necessary improvements to the mall’s infrastructure, including its life safety systems, parking, roof and storefronts. In addition, we have hired Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) to manage the property and to aggressively pursue new leases as well as renew existing leases. The mall continues to operate in excess of 90 percent occupancy, and LNR will continue to make sure the necessary resources are available for the mall’s continued operation.
“We understand that the future of the ShoppingTown Mall is of great interest and importance to the community, and we are happy to engage in a productive and ongoing dialogue with Senator Schumer as well as officials representing the Town of Dewitt and Onondaga County. Our representatives from JLL recently met with the town director and a deputy in an effort to get a better sense of the potential redevelopment scenarios that would be available to future owners of the facility. JLL also recently submitted a comprehensive signage and landscaping improvement plan for the town’s review.”