Sugarloaf Mills mall in debt trouble, again

For the second time in two years, the loan on the Gwinnett County mall formerly known as Discover Mills is in danger of going into foreclosure.

The $130.1 million loan on Sugarloaf Mills has been transferred for a second time to a loan workout group, according to a report last week from Fitch Ratings. The commercial mortgage was restructured by a “special servicer” in 2011, but the debt is again nearing maturity and is in danger of default.

Representatives for Simon Property Group, the operator of Sugarloaf Mills, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

A foreclosure or some other form of ownership change would likely have little effect on shoppers. But it’s the latest sign that commercial loans made during the boom years continue to bedevil lenders and borrowers alike.

Though the economy is slowly improving, property values remain depressed in many areas, and some properties still grapple with vacancies and sluggish rental income.

Southlake Mall in Morrow and Gwinnett Place Mall at I-85 and Pleasant Hill Road are among the local malls that tumbled into foreclosure. The loan on South DeKalb’s Mall at Stonecrest was transferred to a workout firm earlier this year.

Sugarloaf Mills opened as Discover Mills in 2001 and its key tenants include Bass Pro Shops, Burlington Coat Factory and AMC Theatres. It’s not a typical indoor mall, skewing heavily toward outlets.

Sugarloaf Mills had an occupancy rate of 83 percent — well under the mid-90s average for malls metrowide — with key leases nearing renewal, according to Commercial Real Estate Direct, which cited data from Morningstar Credit Ratings.

The loan is part of a commercial mortgage backed security that contained loans on commercial properties nationwide. Among them: Atlanta’s tallest skyscraper, Bank of America Plaza, which tumbled into foreclosure last year.