North Carolina company signs purchase contract on Oak Ridge Mall

Oak Ridge Mall

An aerial view of the Oak Ridge Mall, which has been renamed the Oak Ridge City Center and is pictured at center in the photo above.

A North Carolina company has signed a contract to purchase the Oak Ridge Mall.

Crosland Southeast, a development and investment company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., signed a contract in late January to buy the mostly empty mall from Oak Ridge City Center LLC, according to a Wednesday morning press release from the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

“We feel the Oak Ridge market is under-served in terms of retail and feel very positive about the retailers we believe we can bring to this new center,” Crosland Southeast partner Tim Sittema said in a Wednesday morning press release from the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

A sale price for the roughly 60-acre site in the heart of Oak Ridge has not yet been disclosed, but it would become public after the deal closes.

“In my book, this is one of the most exciting days I’ve had here in a decade at the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce,” said Parker Hardy, president of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce. “This is a big deal.”

Crosland Southeast is currently conducting its due diligence on the property. City officials weren’t sure how long that would take.

It wasn’t immediately clear which specific properties at the mall site, including a vacant lot where Diversified Product Inspections LLC was once located, might be included in the sale. Steve Arnsdorff, chief manager of Oak Ridge City Center LLC, which owns the mall, was not immediately available for comment Wednesday morning. Neither was Sittema.

The relative lack of retail activity at parts of the site has frustrated residents, city officials, and business leaders. The interior of the 500,000-square-foot mall has been mostly empty for years, and only two anchor stores remain: Belk and JCPenney.

Oak Ridge City Center

Most of the enclosed space at the Oak Ridge City Center, also known as the Oak Ridge Mall, has been empty for years, and the roughly 60-acre shopping center was reported to be for sale last spring for $10.5 million.

The property has been for sale since last spring, and local officials had reported that it had a price tag of $10.5 million.

Crosland Southeast has developed more than 24 million square feet of retail and mixed-use projects, including Biltmore Park Town Square, a 790,000-square-foot mixed-use development in Asheville, N.C., the press release said. The company also developed Providence Marketplace, a 835,293-square-foot mixed-use development in Mount Juliet near Nashville.

“They’re very deliberate,” said Ray Evans, an economic development consultant for the city. “They do things right. They’re just a phenomenally good company.”

Hardy said he was impressed by the company’s work in Asheville.

“I was just blown away,” he said. “We know that Crosland Southeast has the relationships with retailers to bring shopping and dining options Oak Ridgers and our neighboring cities and surrounding communities have been asking for.”

Evans said the company has had a good reaction from retailers and would like to have as many local businesses as possible.

“They like a nice mix between the national retailers and local retailers,” he said.

Oak Ridge City Center

Belk is one of two anchor stores remaining at the Oak Ridge City Center.

The Chamber said demolition of the current mall could begin by early 2014. Site plans have not been developed yet, but the Chamber said Crosland Southeast plans to create a mixed-use center that would include retail stores, restaurants, office space, and more.

“The lack of retail and sales tax leakage have been huge issues to everyone who lives in Oak Ridge for a number of years,” Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan said. “Crosland Southeast has a solid reputation for taking shopping centers like the Oak Ridge Mall and turning them into thriving, quality developments. This is a great day for Oak Ridge.”

In June, city officials said potential developers at the mall are likely to ask for public money to help pay for infrastructure improvements ranging from rerouted roadways and new traffic lights to building upgrades and property demolition.

“It will unquestionably be required,” Evans said Wednesday. “Every prospect said the deal can’t work unless there is some public-private participation.”

But city officials said the potential public involvement hasn’t been spelled out yet.

It’s not clear how many prospective buyers looked at the mall. Although he wasn’t directly involved in the negotiations, Beehan said in June that 40 companies interested in redeveloping the property had signed confidentiality agreements, and the owners wanted to narrow the list down. The companies were national firms with mall development and redevelopment experience, Beehan said then.

On Wednesday, Hardy said the Chamber worked with five companies, but he’s not sure how many companies had expressed interest to to the owners. Evans said there were at least five serious prospects, and a handful of others that responded to specific inquiries.

In August, Arnsdorff said the owners were focused on one potential buyer. Arnsdorff is a Chattanooga businessman who bought the mall, which was renamed the Oak Ridge City Center, for $6 million in 2003.

In 2002, 56 percent of Oak Ridge voters rejected a controversial $23.2 million bond resolution that would have supported a plan to convert the mall into a town square that would have included new school administration headquarters and a senior citizens center.

Redevelopment plans have languished in the decade since, although there have been occasional bursts of optimism as new or revived proposals were announced.

Municipal officials have said they would still like to create a city center.

“That is something the city is interested in, and the community is interested in,” Beehan said in an earlier interview.

It’s one in a string of new business developments announced or completed in Oak Ridge in the past year, including restaurants and a bank at Jackson Square, a plan to convert the dilapidated Alexander Inn into an assisted living center, a new Kroger Marketplace shopping center at Oak Ridge Turnpike and Illinois Avenue, and a new hotel, Aubrey’s, Panera Bread, Aldi, and Weigel’s along South Illinois Avenue.

Evans said the mall site, which has dropped in value from $60 million to $6 million, affecting tax revenues and quality of life, has historically been one of the economic drivers in the community. The property was once home to the Downtown Shopping Center, which was “absolutely viable” and included many local businesses, Evans said.

“That’s, by far, the most important piece of property in the community,” he said, and it could be the heart and soul of Oak Ridge.

“The best opportunity we have is this 60 acres to create a heart and soul,” Evans said.

Note: This story was last updated at 11:24 a.m. Feb. 14.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1581897377 Peggy Tiner

    Great News.

  • Angi Agle

    Wow — if they’re able to do anything like Providence Marketplace in Mt. Juliet (another Crosland Southeast development), it would be like the old days when we didn’t have to leave town to buy anything!

    • Lucas

      Having spent two years working in Providence, I can tell you that this company is quite solid. I really loved that they maintained the shopping center well, were proactive and recruited new businesses aggressively.

  • Shelly

    AWESOME!!!!

  • JackC

    What does “Crosland Southeast is currently conducting its due diligence on the Oak Ridge Mall property.” mean exactly ?

    • http://www.facebook.com/johnhuotari John Huotari

      It’s been explained to me as a more complicated version of buying a home but having it subject to a home inspection, etc.

      • Sam Hopwood

        i suspect that a whole lot of “due diligence’ would be wise when dealing with the current mall owners. Just my view.

        • http://www.facebook.com/carol.donath.3 Carol Donath

          And would they have to deal with Walmart as well or does Walmart own it’s own property?

          • Sam Hopwood

            Pretty sure that Walmart owns it’s own property but it holds some dicey covenants regarding the mall property. Never understood how that was allowed to happen. The covenants restrict certain stores that compete with Walmart I believe.

          • steve

            Yes, Walmart owns it’s own property (actually an entity named WAL-MART REAL ESTATE owns it), a fact that can be confirmed by looking at the property tax records for Anderson County which are available on line.

            If anyone would actually like to read the covenants, they are available from the Register of Deeds, and you can look it up on line at http://search.andersondeeds.com/menu.php.

            As far as I can tell, the pertinent document appears in book 1156, pages 384 -433, dated June 20th, 2000.

            Some of the covenants are: No grocery store, no “discount store”, no building taller than 38 feet, restrictions on buildings larger than 90,200 sq feet (though it does appear that one can have a store larger than that so long as it isn’t a discount store or a grocery store), granted access easements and guaranteed parking spaces.

          • http://www.facebook.com/johnhuotari John Huotari

            Thanks for the info.

  • myra mansfield

    What does the sales contract say the sales price is, or are they hiding that information?

    • http://www.facebook.com/johnhuotari John Huotari

      I haven’t seen the sales contract, Myra, and I wasn’t able to get in touch with the buyer or seller to discuss the purchase price. The sales price will become public at some point.

  • Martin Fischer

    Yea for continued good news & for all of those behind it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/plirminger Pam Irminger

    This is absolutely fantastic news. Now we Oak Ridgers need to become more pro-business. We’ll need to be willing to talk about tax concessions and bring our sign policy into line with other neighboring cities.

    • TJ Garland

      Tax concessions? What tax concessions? Has Beehan been making unilateral decisions again?
      No doubt some hand shake deals have been made before the purchase was done.
      City Council is the final decider though.

      • steve

        Personal attacks/insults are forbidden by the posting rules. But then I guess those rules don’t apply to you and your Councilwoman wife, right?

        • T J Garland

          Rules require you to use your full name Steve-whoever- you- are.
          Maybe you are not aware of Beehan’s past indiscretions of making decisions for the Council without authorization.
          He sometimes forgets he is not an elected full time mayor, but is only a mouthpiece for the Council.
          Kinda like the Marxist in the White House that is way overstepping his authority.
          Come out of the closet “Steve”.

          • steve

            Read the rules again, Mr. Garland. They say nothing about using your “full name”. And in this very thread there are at least 3 other examples of people who didn’t, and if one looks at other threads in this blog there are numerous other examples of people not using their “full name”. You obviously don’t like people who disagree with you and challenge you. Just like you recently were threatening Sam Hopwood over gun issues. Now, perhaps you would like to back up your unsubstantiated contention that Mr. Beehan has “past indiscretions” with some verifiable proof. One could bet good money that you can’t.

          • http://www.facebook.com/johnhuotari John Huotari

            The intention is to have people use an identifiable name. That would generally include a last name.

          • John Robbins, Layton, UT

            Could someone please kick “Steve” out so those of us that are native Oak Ridgers, living in places away from Oak Ridge, can read what people are thinking about the news story and the buying of the Mall. Please delete his useless comments and rantings. It gets in the way of those of us wanting to know what is going on in the city.

          • http://www.facebook.com/johnhuotari John Huotari

            I have asked steve to use his real name, including his last name.

          • TJ Garland

            The SAIC letter comes to mind immediately, unknown Steve. Man up citizen!
            You wouldn’t know a threat if it climbed in the closet with you.
            Did I threaten you Sam?
            Time to out him or ban him John.

          • Steve Mason

            In 2008, when the referenced letter was written, the policy was that the Industrial Development Board approved the payment in lieu of taxes offers. This was changed in 2010 to require Council approval. Try again, Mr. Garland.

          • John Robbins, Layton

            Steve, please stop interrupting the conversation with your foolishness. Some of us are interested in what Oak Ridgers think about THE MALL and the news story, not your silly ranting. Stop it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/johnhuotari John Huotari

            I do moderate the comments and ask people to use their real names. That includes last names. I probably don’t catch every instance when someone doesn’t, but I’m more likely to remind them of our policy when the comment is negative. I am asking you to please use your last name. Thank you.

          • mary connolly

            Mr. Garland, I don’t understand. How is calling the president a Marxist relevant to this conversation?

    • Mark Caldwell

      So you’re a believer in corporate welfare?

      • steve

        Do you want the mall to sit empty for another 10 years?

        • TJ Garland

          The new owners bought it at a 50% discount at least.
          This should give them enough money left for infrastructure improvements without extorting the city.
          Kroger never asked for a dime while paying a premium for the property.

          BTW, I speak for myself only.

          • steve

            That was Kroger’s choice, Mr. Garland. And the city will probably still be making some “infrastructure improvements” for them too for traffic lights and utility connections. And how do you know what the new owners paid for the mall property. Are you privy to inside information from your wife? And what exactly gives you the expertise to know whether the new owners have “enough money left for infrastructure”? Again, do you have inside information on their financial situation and borrowing capability? Of course you don’t, you’re just guessing and throwing stuff at the wall hoping something sticks.

            Who said that you don’t speak for yourself, Mr. Garland? Should one detect a bit of paranoia in this comment? But the real question is not who you speak for, but who might be influencing what your wife says as a member of the City Council. Your opinions demonstrate that you clearly do not have the good of the community in mind.

          • John Robbins, Layton

            Steve, what is your beef? Man you just seem to like to make the news of a new buyer for the Mall into a personal attack. If you can’t keep the focus on the news, stay out of the conversation. Some of us native Oak Ridgers, that live out of state now, but still have family there, want to hear what people are thinking of the news, not some belligerent dude that won’t even identify himself. To not say your full name just makes you irrelevant, except you are getting in the way of us knowing what the people of thinking. I am identifying myself and where I live. Look me up anytime. I stand behind what I say.

          • Steve Mason

            Well, Mr. Robbins, if you would have read the comments carefully, you would have seen that Mr. Garland hurled the first “personal attack” against Mr. Beehan. I’ve never seen you post before this thread. Isn’t it interesting that you suddenly rise in defense of Mr. Garland?

  • mikemikesong

    I hope to see stores like East Town/West Town mall has. At least a few of the good ones would be nice. And good clothing stores for us younger people. Sorry but JC Penney and Sears(I know it’s now closed) were such old people stores. And Walmart clothes are for poor people. NO MORE RESTAURANTS PLEASE!!!(caps)

    • CK

      In the late 80′s they had ALL the best stores ,Oak Ridgers still drove to WestTown and EastTown (When it arrived).They do’t like to spend money HERE. They love frr stuff more than most though. That Mall Walking was a real hit . LOL

      • CK

        *Don’t* Like

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnhuotari John Huotari

    Thank you all for your comments.

    We have noticed several people posting in this thread without using their full names. Although our commenting policy hasn’t explicitly said it, we do ask people to use their last names as well. We are hopeful that this will help keep the conversation civil and add credibility to the comments that are posted here. First initials are okay if that’s how you are commonly identified in the community.

    Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today.

    • TJ Garland

      Out him or ban him, John

      • Steve Mason

        You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Mr. Garland? Get rid of anyone who disagrees with you, right? You really have some anger issues, don’t you?

  • johnhuotari

    The comments in this thread have veered off topic and turned personal, so I am closing this thread. Thank you all for your comments and reading Oak Ridge Today.

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