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FRIDAY, JULY 13, 2007
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Local mall sold
Formal announcement of acquisition pending

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

The deal was sealed this week, but one of the players remains a mystery.

After months of speculation, negotiations for selling Decatur's Colonial Mall closed Friday, effectively transferring ownership of the retail destination to a new party.

But representatives with Birmingham-based Colonial Properties Trust, the mall's parent company — at least until Thursday — declined to release the identity of the new owner.

"I'll let the buyer make that announcement," said John Moss, a senior vice president with Colonial Properties. "I hate to be so evasive, but at this point, it's really not my place to be the one that talks about that."

According to a spokeswoman at the mall, the buyer will make a formal announcement of the acquisition. But it was not clear when.

Shop owners at the mall Thursday said they were aware the facility had been sold, but they had not been told who the new owner is.

Of the possible buyers, a likely possibility is New York-based Och-Ziff Capital Management Group. In April, the group, under the shell name OZRE Retail, entered into a partnership with Colonial Properties, purchasing an 85-percent interest in 11 of Colonial's retail units in the Southeast.

The portfolio was valued at about $360 million.

Under the partnership, Colonial retained the opportunity to sell its remaining interest in the properties, but a company news release published in June stated the partnership did not constitute an offer by OZRE to purchase the properties.

It was not clear Thursday whether Decatur's Colonial Mall was among the 11 properties involved in the partnership.

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

While the mall's future remained uncertain Thursday, Moss said current Colonial employees at the mall are being retained by the new owner. The statement could indicate the new owner intends to keep the retail facility open.

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

If the renovation had been completed, the project would have upgraded the mall's exterior and interior. It also would have moved the theater inside the mall's main structure.

But by 2005, it was apparent the renovation plans were not materializing.

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

According to Colonial Trust's 2006 company profile, selling retail and commercial properties is part of the company's new business strategy, allowing it to place most of its capital into more-profitable residential properties.

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

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