A contracted retail developer for Columbus has indicated multiple developers have expressed interest in purchasing Leigh Mall. Meanwhile, mall management company Jones Lang LaSalle has not made public its future plans for the property. Photo by: Dispatch file photo
January 7, 2019 11:09:59 AM
Members of a firm tasked with recruiting retail for Columbus indicated multiple developers have expressed interest in buying Leigh Mall.
Meanwhile, representatives with new mall manager Jones Lange LaSalle Americas (JLL) have remained tight-lipped about the company's future plans for the struggling Highway 45 retail center.
Will Kline, project manager for The Retail Coach of Tupelo, with which Columbus has a one-year contract for retail development, said he's personally talked more than once with "(an) individual or group of individuals interested in buying the mall."
He didn't identify the interested parties but said one is local and one is from out-of-state.
Whomever the interested parties, they will have to wait to make their pitches until after Tuesday, when Leigh Mall is slated to be auctioned as part of a public sale. Current owner Security National Properties listed the mall, along with more than two-dozen of its other properties nationwide, as collateral on a $34.7 million loan on which it defaulted. JLL is listed as one of the secured creditors on that debt and has been managing the mall since shortly after the public sale notice was published in September.
A New York attorney familiar with Tuesday's sale proceedings told The Dispatch it would have very little, if any, impact on Leigh Mall at the ground level.
Essentially, he said, potential buyers are bidding on the entire lot of properties listed in the sale notice, instead of piecemeal.
Any impact on Leigh Mall tenants, leases or building issues, he said, would be in JLL's purview as mall managers.
David Renninger, JLL regional manager for Leigh Mall, has not provided The Dispatch any information about JLL's plans, despite multiple attempts by the newspaper via phone and email.
On Thursday, at Renninger's request, The Dispatch emailed him several questions related to things like retail recruitment and planned investment in the building. As of press time today, he still hadn't responded.
Kline said once the action has passed he hopes he can work more closely with JLL to recruit tenants for the mall and possibly find a new owner for the property all together.
"Ideally ... a new owner comes to the table and breathes new life into the mall," he said.
Leigh Mall has been in decline in recent years. Not only are tenants leaving, but the mall's roof and parts of the parking lot are in disrepair.
Since 2017, anchor store JCPenney, along with Radio Shack, Reed's Jewelry, Sears Hometown Store, The Cookie Store, Payless ShoeSource and Kirkland's have all either shuttered or announced their impending closures.
Joe Max Higgins, CEO for the Golden Triangle Development LINK - which handled retail recruitment for Columbus before the city council hired The Retail Coach late last year - has also indicated multiple developers over the years had expressed interest in the mall property, most recently in 2017 when JCPenney was on the way out. Higgins previously told The Dispatch that despite that interest, the mall's then-owner, Security National Properties, always declined to sell at the interested party's proposed price or at all.
The mall property's assessed value is $12.1 million, according to the Lowndes County Tax Assessor's Office.
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