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Colonial Mall in sale process

By Evan Belanger 340-2442

The future of Decatur's Colonial Mall remained uncertain this week as news of a probable buyout was released by company executives.

A spokesperson for the mall's Birmingham-based parent company, Colonial Properties Trust, confirmed Wednesday the company intends to sell the 1970s-era shopping mall.

"We've been marketing it for some time, so yes, it is our intent to sell," said John Moss, Colonial's senior vice president for retail. "And we do have a buyer that is in the final stages of the process."

Moss would neither identify the buyer nor comment on the mall's future.

Located on Beltline Road Southwest at Danville Road, Colonial Mall is home to more than 70 retail stores and a movie theater, according to the company's Web site.

Beginning in early 2004, the mall became a topic of Decatur City Council business as Colonial representatives requested about $4 million from the city to aid in a $19 million renovation project.

If it had been completed, the project would have upgraded the mall's exterior and interior, and moved the theater inside the main structure. At the time, it was reported the city could expect about $15.6 million in extra revenue as a result of the renovation.

But by 2005, it was apparent the renovation plans would not materialize quickly.

"We expressed interest and desire to work with them on it, but we just didn't hear anything back from them," said District 4 City Councilman Ronny Russell. "Apparently, throughout the process, they made the decision to sell."

According to Mayor Don Kyle, the city will reserve any future financial commitments toward the mall until after the buyers are revealed.

"They may want to go in a whole new direction, so we just won't know anything until we know who they are," he said.

According to Colonial Trust's 2006 company profile, selling retail and commercial properties is part of the company's new business model, allowing it to place more capital funds in more profitable residential properties.

The company expects to sell more than $1.5 billion worth of commercial and retail property this year.

"Robust performance in 2006 gave us a strong footing from which to accelerate our plan," wrote Chief Executive Officer C. Reynolds Thompson III in a letter to shareholders.

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