A New York businessman says he may be able to close a deal to purchase the Woodville Mall in a few weeks.
Mike Kohan, who has purchased several malls in the Midwest in recent years, said he remains in negotiations to purchase the mall, which has seen many of its smaller stores close and one of three anchor stores, Elder Beerman, announce it plans to close in September.
“I have a lot of plans for that mall,” he said. “I want to open up my own stores; clothing shops, children shops, shoe stores, book stores, toy stores. I’m in merchandizing myself so I won’t have to wait for stores to come. I’ll open some stores myself. I don’t want to be wasting time just waiting for tenants.”
Kohan said he is seeing “a lot of opportunity” for investment in the Midwest that he’s not finding along the East Coast.
“Obviously it’s a big challenge. Much bigger than on the East Coast because of the demographics and state of the economy,” he said.
About one year ago he completed the purchase of the Village Square Mall in Effingham, Ill. At the time, there were about 15 open retail units.
Kohan told the Effingham Daily News at the time the mall was well positioned to compete against merchants on the north side of the city by charging $5 or $6 per square foot for leased retail space - about a third of what rent was elsewhere.
“We’re filling it up,” he said last week, adding a family activity center is being planned and will put the mall at more than 80 percent occupancy.
This past June, he completed the purchase of the Jamestown Mall in St. Louis County, Missouri for $3.3 million, according to county records.
An economic development study of the region says the mall’s opening in 1973 signified that “retail development had followed residential growth out to the suburban fringe of St. Louis County. As wealthier households moved into newer portions of North County, aging neighborhoods and shopping centers in the southern portion of the Highway 367 corridor became less attractive to suburban residents.”
A recent article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch quotes Kohan as saying he planned to quickly put five or six of his own stores in the mall.
Kohan’s optimism that he is close to completing a deal for the Woodville Mall apparently means another firm that had been in purchase talks is dropping out.
Metro Equity Management, based in Lakeville, Minnesota, had even listed the mall on its Web site as one of the properties it owns or manages. The mall was listed on the Web site as recently as Aug. 17 but has since been removed.
Pat Bacon, Northwood City Administrator, said last week that representatives from Metro Equity had been in contact with her office for more than a year and even had tentative plans for revitalizing the mall, including an ice rink and bowling alley.
“They have talked with the city numerous times and even had met with the port authority,” she said.
Metro Equity didn’t respond last week to a fax message for comment.
Kohan late last year also completed the purchase of Northland Mall in Worthington, Minnesota.