The two malls are Mason Asset Management’s major properties in Florida. Mason is known for buying distressed, bank-owned and off-market properties.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported Monday that Great Neck, N.Y.-based Mason Asset Management “is taking a shot at selling the dilapidated retail center at auction,” referring to DeSoto Square Mall.
Heraldtribune.com said the 680,271-square-foot Bradenton mall, anchored by Macy’s, JCPenney and Sears, is listed on websites like auction.com with a starting bid of $9 million for the 73.5-acre parcel. The auction is scheduled to begin in about a month.
Regency Square General Manager Jim Kramer referred questions about the effect on or future of Regency Square to the owner, who declined comment Monday.
Mason bought the DeSoto mall from Simon Property Group for $24.6 million, the newspaper said.
The newspaper reported that despite its track record of turning struggling centers into prosperous ones, Mason has invested little in the property. The story said the mall’s exterior was repainted this year, and $60,000 went toward new pylon entrance signs.
DeSoto Square opened in 1973 and has been plagued with a history of theft and other crime, which contributed to the mall’s struggle to retain some quality tenants, the Herald-Tribune said.
In February, Hudson’s Furniture took over the former Dillard’s two-story, 110,000-square-foot space there. A crossfit gym opened in the past year inside a former boater supply business’ 11,000-square-foot space, but the gym closed this year and left for Palmetto, the paper said.
The paper quoted Richard Bedford, the general manager of the mall, as saying DeSoto Square is 95 percent leased, up from 75 percent when Mason bought the mall. “We’re happy as clams over here,” Bedford said.
The newspaper raised questions whether Macy’s, one of the mall’s longest-standing tenants, will leave DeSoto Square once the $315 million Mall at University Town Center opens in October.
Regency Mall Realty LLC, a joint venture of Namdar Realty Group LLC and Mason Asset Management, bought Regency for $13 million. Kramer said owners haven’t decided about upgrades.
There are some notable differences between Regency and DeSoto Square, including that Regency Square is much larger, at 1.6 million square feet.
However, like Macy’s at DeSoto Square, there is a question about the future of Belk at Regency because a site has been cleared for a new Belk several miles east of the Arlington mall.
At Regency, Sears and Dillard’s own their stores. At DeSoto, Sears owns its store.
Also like DeSoto, Regency is an older property that has struggled. It was built in 1967, later expanded and then was battered by the loss of tenants to newer shopping centers in growing parts of town. Occupancy had fallen to 37.9 percent by year-end 2013.
However, in the four months since Mason bought Regency and the three months since it hired Kramer, new stores have opened.
Last week Kramer outlined the new and expanding tenants at Regency Square, which is consolidating its retail stores in the East Mall and will later decide what to do with the West Mall, which is largely vacant.
Kramer said occupancy in the East Mall will be up to 75 percent, with at least 15 new leases signed in the past three months. A dozen could open by Aug. 15.
Kramer outlined six stores that have opened recently in the East Mall, seven more that should open by September, three more in negotiations and three new food-court tenants.
Among those new tenants, Sports Mania, a Jacksonville-based chain of sports apparel and accessories, opened Saturday near JCPenney. The grand-opening for Anointed Creations, a painting-events store, is planned this morning.
Regency also is actively marketing the mall to tenants, saying in a flier it has a gross leasable area of 1.39 million square feet. High-profile tenants that continue to operate in the East Mall include Aeropostale, Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Kay Jewelers, Wet Seal and others.
The West Mall is open, although the leasing focus is on nontraditional retailers, such as a church that has leased some space near the Dillard’s clearance center.
Kramer voiced confidence in Mason and Namdar last week. “When Namdar makes a decision, it’s well-thought-out and well-executed,” he said, referring to its plans for Regency, which is at 9501 Arlington Expressway.
He also said his indication was that the owners were focused on Regency for the “long haul.”
Mason Asset Management, a partner in the group that bought Regency Square Mall in February, is trying to sell the Bradenton mall it acquired in 2012.