The sale has been in the works for roughly a month. In mid-May, city leaders announced they abandoned plans to transform the Sears into a public safety hub, agreeing it wanted to sell the property to Stonecrest Resorts LLC. The company is a development affiliate of Urban Retail Properties, the organization that manages the Mall at Stonecrest.
The intended deal was for $2.4 million, slightly more than the final amount. The city will receive $500,000 when the deal closes, and the rest will be paid six months after closing.
In March, the mall was purchased by a Florida-based venture capital firm, which announced a lofty vision for the site. Space for an aquarium was listed among those plans, which also include a sports and entertainment complex, a cosmetics superstore and an apartment complex. Urban Retail Properties will still oversee the mall’s development and management.
Camille Coakley, real estate and marketing director at Stonecrest Resorts, said the aquarium fits the mall’s goal to provide more entertainment options.
“We believe the future is bright for Stonecrest as we work diligently to expand the lifestyle and entertainment components at the Mall through repositioning vacant retail such as the former Sears,” she said in an email. “As we approach the Mall’s 20th Anniversary in October we will begin revealing new tenants and amenities that will further define what Stonecrest will be renowned for.”
SeaQuest currently has nine aquariums, including locations in Fort Worth, Texas, Lynchburg, Virginia, and Las Vegas. Most of its locations operate inside malls. A planned location in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, never got off the ground due to the COVID-19 pandemic and protests from animal rights activists, who claim some animals have died due to neglect in its aquariums. Covino has denied those allegations.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said in a news release that the aquarium company is moving too quickly in Stonecrest, selling season passports and performing work before the sale is finalized. PETA said it sent a letter to Stonecrest city officials asking them to “stop this sleazy petting zoo in its tracks.”
Season passports, which typically cost $39.95, are currently on sale for $27.95 at the Stonecrest location. While daily passes aren’t available yet, prices vary between $11.95 and $17.95 at other locations, depending on the attendees’ age. More information is available at stonecrest.visitseaquest.com.
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