City to Refocus Its Attention at Southwest Center on Macy's, Which Is "Still Alive"; Penney's Owner Will Consider All His Options

Back to Southwest Center Mall for a moment -- or, more specifically, the city's plans to keep the "dead mall," per the Urban Land Institute, alive. Karl Zavitkovsky kept the council's Economic Development Committee behind closed doors for almost an hour this morning, during which point it was mentioned that instead of spending $2 million to buy the vacant-since-2001 JCPenney site, maybe the council ought to spend a few bucks to keep Macy's from moving out.

Rudy notes that the council's now operating on the assumption that Macy's "might be looking to get out of the mall altogether," leaving only Sears and Burlington Coat as anchor tenants. Not sure how close that is to reality: Macy's spokesman Jim Sluzewski tells Unfair Park the department store has "no plans to close any Macy's store anywhere in the country. We do periodically review all of our store locations, and if we are adding or subtracting we'll announce it at that point, but we have no plans at this point to close any of our stores." And Zavitkovsky, head of the city's Office of Economic Development, tells Unfair Park today that "Macy's has not told us they're leaving."

And while Zavitkovsky's loathe to go into too much detail, he will say this: "We don't want Macy's to leave -- them or Sears or Burlington. They're key ingredients to the whole enterprise. Macy's is still alive, and Penney's is an inanimate object."

Steve Rosenberg, whose Beaverton, Oregon-based Aspen Capital Funding owns the Penney's space, tells Unfair Park he's doesn't know what the city intends to do with his space -- all he knows is that after the six-month rent-to-own deal is done at month's end, he's free to do with Penney's what he wants. And that could well include selling the space to a flea market or any other comer with a check.

"Obviously we're not developers," he says. "We're not interested in long-term ownership. Once the option expires, we'll have to pursue whatever options are out there."

Rosenberg says he's been out of the country, and insists our call was the first he's heard of potential efforts to incentivize Macy's at the expense of buying the Penney's property.

"It'll be a sad day if Macy's leaves," he says. "The city has worked very hard on this. They've been wonderful to try and make this work. But as far as I'm concerned, all options are open to me."

Zavitkovsky says the city will continue negotiations with Rosenberg. "That's still an important space," he insists. "But our first priority is to keep the anchor tenants feeling good about the direction of the mall and to be as positive as we and to assist the small tenants."

Question is: Did the city just waste $97,200 to shop-block a flea market? The city would argue no -- that it needed to spend the money to buy time.

"You have to move forward incrementally, especially in a public process," says Zavitkovsky. "You've got so many people that feel different things are important, and you need to take it step by step. I think the Economic Development Committee is asking the right questions. I think we have some very good ingredients in place. Think about where we were a year ago. Now we''ve got a proactive lender [Madison Partners] who formed a joint venture with a retail developer [Jimmy Jazz] who didn't just market the mall space wholesale. You've go Fiesta Mundo, which came in completely on its own and purchased Dillard's. And I think all that stuff is very positive. And you don't see results overnight. Cityview, the joint Monarch-Jimmy Jazz venture, has invested money, and they've also brought in some of their own stores in and are actively leasing, so I'd expect they'd make capital improvements in the mall. These things start to snowball, but it doesn't happen overnight."

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