» IN-DEPTH: Atlanta malls shop for Plan B as times get tougher
Jim Roberts is a senior vice president with Urban Retail Properties LLC, the Chicago-based firm that manages the Mall at Stonecrest.
“Ownership is currently working with the special servicer to extend the existing mortgage,” Roberts said in an email this week. “We hope to have additional news that we can share soon.”
Roberts declined to answer additional questions about the mall’s future but, as Lary pointed out, foreclosure doesn’t necessarily mean the mall would close any time soon.
With the rise of online shopping and other non-traditional retail, shopping malls across the United States have fallen on hard times. And while vacant storefronts, empty parking lots and financial struggles often persist, metro Atlanta malls from Southlake to Gwinnett Place have gone into foreclosure in recent years yet remained open for business.
In a Thursday afternoon Facebook post, Lary pointed out that mall anchor stores like Macy's and Dillard's own their own properties and aren't subject to "the mall's financial plights." And he said the city is "strategically planning viable economic development around the mall that will thrive and will help the mall thrive."
The city of Stonecrest is in the process of buying the shopping center's former Sears store, which closed in early 2018. Stonecrest envisions turning part of the building into a public safety complex, whether by rolling out its own police force or partnering with DeKalb County.
The city is also in talks to bring a local technical college into the building.
The floundering of the mall-adjacent megaproject known as Atlanta Sports City — a complex pitched to include dozens of sports fields, shops and restaurants — shows that dreams don't always come true.
Still, Lary said there’s reason for optimism, in and around the Mall at Stonecrest.
Local philanthropist and businessman Lecester "Bill" Allen recently secured $700 million in revenue bonds to build a project on 300 acres surrounding the mall (including the proposed site for Atlanta Sports City). He plans to build a complex that includes a 16-story hotel, an amphitheater and other mixed-use elements.
“Here’s a thing that you can bank on, sir,” Lary said. “We wouldn’t be buying the Sears building if we thought [the mall] was going under.”