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New York firm buys mall
Company has no immediate plans to renovate, expand or make other drastic changes

By Evan Belanger 340-2442

The new owner of the former Decatur Colonial Mall has its corporate headquarters on Fifth Avenue in New York.

A representative for the mall announced Tuesday that the 576,098-square-foot retail center has been purchased by First Republic Group Realty.

In the deal finalized Thursday, the company also acquired 11 other retail properties from Birmingham-based Colonial Properties Trust.

The acquisition includes three other shopping malls, all smaller than Decatur's.

Other malls First Republic purchased from Colonial include the 206,940-square-foot Mayberry Mall in Mount Airy, N.C.; the 423,967-square-foot Staunton Mall in Staunton, Va., and the 518,290-square-foot Lake-shore Mall in Gainesville, Ga.

The overall acquisition totals more than 2.4 million square feet of retail space. First Republic executives have not released how much they paid for the portfolio.

Despite ownership of the mall, First Republic will not manage any of the 11 properties. According to a company press release, Atlanta-based Jones Lang LaSalle has been selected to manage them.

LaSalle is the country's largest third-party retail-management firm, controlling 47.3 million square feet of retail space. The recent agreement with First Republic marks LaSalle's 108th retail property.

"This is an amazing milestone for us," said LaSalle President Greg Maloney in a prepared statement. "It has been a goal of ours to reach the 100-property mark, and we are thrilled to have crossed over with this outstanding portfolio."

A spokesman for LaSalle, Frank Hartge, said Tuesday the company has no immediate plans to renovate, expand or make any other drastic changes at the Decatur mall but it will conduct a series of studies on how to best meet the community's shopping needs.

"It's still pretty early in the process to be making decisions like that," he said.

Tammy Burks, marketing manager at the mall, said the retail center will soon be renamed, but she could not say what the new name will be.

"Right now, they're just calling it Decatur Mall," she said.

Located on Beltline Road Southwest at Danville Road, the Decatur mall is home to more than 70 retail stores and a movie theater.

The mall's recent sale is part of a massive sell-off of retail properties by former owner Colonial Properties Trust.

According to the company's Web site, Colonial is striving to allocate more of its capital funds in higher-profit, residential properties. Colonial is expected to sell more than $1.5 billion worth of commercial and retail property this year.

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.

The renovation was never started and no deal with the city was ever reached.

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