Good news | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Good news

Posted By on Wed, Jun 13, 2007 at 9:19 AM

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Federal Judge Bill Wilson wasted no time tying up the University Mall lawsuit, which had lingered on too long in the late Judge George Howard's court.

Landowners win. Simon Property Group has mismanaged the property into failure, as any casual drive-by will tell you. In theory, Simon could be forced to spend many millions -- $4 to $15 million has been estimated -- to rehab the mall. But  that won't happen. The enclosed mall is a dinosaur. It will be razed. The question is whether the landowners are willing to strike a new lease deal with Simon to redevelop the property. Or sell to Simon. Or set a price so unacceptable to Simon that it gives up the 19 years remaining on its land lease. It's going to be interesting to see the outcome. Some time ago, Simon made an undisclosed purchase offer but the landowners didn't respond.

That was quite a last-paragraph kicker in the Democrat-Gazette story this morning on the judge's decision. Wilson has awarded fees and costs to the landowners. It will not be a small bill.

The illustration at top, by the way, is from an idea Simon floated that demonstrates it wants to make a go of redeveloping the property, with a Target, restaurants, maybe residences. Of course it would like to develop the land. It's prime real estate in handy reach of some of the city's best purchasing power. And the plan Simon has described is very attractive. But how much are they willing to pay the land owners -- these include the Cella family, which need not do distress sale deals -- for the privilege? Are the landowners willing to work with Simon at all?

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