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More About City's Plans to "Rent" JCPenney at Southwest Center Mall, With Option to Buy

Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the city's Office of Economic Development, just called back to explain why the city's moving forward with plans to purchase the JCPenney's space at Southwest Center Mall, which the chain abandoned in 2001. Fact is, he says, the city is intervening because the owner of the property, Aspen Penny LLC, was recently approachedby a flea market about assuming the space "on a relatively long-term basis," which city officials don't think is in the best interest of revitalization efforts at Southwest Center Mall.

(Update at 3:04 p.m.: The city has posted the briefing for Monday's meeting. And, by the way, this is going before council on Wednesday. It's on the just-posted addendum for next week's city council meeting.)

And so, on Monday, Hammond Perot, Economic Development's second-in-command, will present to council a plan that allows the city to pay Aspen Penny $16,200 a month for six months, during which time the city will evaluate a handful of proposals that have been submitted to Economic Development in recent months. If the city doesn't like what it sees from would-be developers, it will go ahead and buy the property, with the $97,200 going toward the purchase price -- which, Zavitkovsky says, has been capped at a little more than $2 million. In the meantime, the city has commissioned two independent appraisals.

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That money will come from a private-public economic development grant -- the same pot out of which the city paid $120,000 for the Urban Land Institute's study in April.

"What the ULI basically said is, 'You gotta pay to play,'" Zavitkovsky says. "They laid out a rough blueprint and said, 'You've got a bunch of owners out there, and there needs to be some consolidation of ownership. And if the city wants the ultimate development or redevelopment vision for the mall, you may have to step in and acquire or facilitate the acquisition of Dillard's and Penney's."

Speaking of, Zavitkovsky says the city doesn't need to buy Dillard's because it's currently under contract by something called Fiesta Mundo, which, he says, is "kind of a multi-purpose Latino center -- food courts, an event center, a Dave & Busters kind of thing."

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