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Kyle says he’s pleased with new mall owner

By Evan Belanger · 340-2442

Mayor Don Kyle says he couldn’t be happier with the new owner of Decatur’s former Colonial Mall.

Kyle met Wednesday with Mark Stern, president and chief executive officer of New York-based First Republic Group Realty. He said the new owner intends to retain ownership of the mall and make upgrades.

“They’re in it for the long haul and want to be contributing members of our community for many years,” he said.

Stern was in Decatur to look at the property. Wednesday’s meeting reportedly lasted more than two hours as Kyle and District 4 City Councilman Ronny Russell discussed the mall’s future.

Kyle said the new owner provided few specifics about proposed changes, but he expects to hear back from the company’s advisory group soon.

If the proposal is right, Kyle said, the city will be willing to offer some financial support for infrastructure changes associated with upgrades.

“I’m not ready to put a dollar figure on it yet,” he said. “But when we see what they want to do, particularly if they can show us some tenant connections they have coming in, the discussion could get very interesting.”

In 2004, the city offered Birmingham-based Colonial Properties Trust, the former mall owner, about $4 million toward a $19-million renovation.

If completed, the renovations would have upgraded the interior and exterior and moved the movie theater inside the main structure. But Colonial executives chose to put the property on the market instead.

At an undisclosed price, First Republic purchased the local mall and 10 other retail properties from Colonial last month.

Early in the sale process, Kyle expressed concerns that the new owner might resell the mall quickly, leaving it to deteriorate. But Wednesday, he said his concerns were alleviated.

First Republic hired Atlanta-based Jones Lang LaSalle to manage the properties. Controlling 47.3 million square feet of retail space, LaSalle is the country’s largest third-party, retail-management firm.

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

If mall conditions improve, Kyle said, the city should see extra sales-tax revenue.

“The whole community has shopped there over the years, even as it’s declined and maybe hasn’t been kept up-to-date,” he said. “To have it modernized and improved, and hopefully the vacant square footage filled up, will be terrific for the whole town.

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