SAGINAW TOWNSHIP, MI — Fashion Square Mall will join a family of shopping centers owned by a New York investment group, including the Midland Mall, officials said.
Great Neck, New York-based Kohan Retail Investment Group purchased the indoor shopping center for $10.8 million in an August online auction. Because the sale was pending additional paperwork, the buyer’s identity was not revealed at the time.
But the deal was finalized Thursday, Sept. 22, and an official representing the auction revealed Kohan Retail Investment Group as the new owner. The mall has remained open throughout the process.
The sale was completed less than two weeks before the 50-year anniversary of the mall’s opening.
Officials with the new ownership group did not immediately return messages from The Saginaw News/MLive.
The company’s website revealed a history of investing in shopping centers.
Not including Fashion Square Mall, the website showed the group owned 61 retail centers, including six malls in Michigan: Adrian Mall, Birchwood Mall in Fort Gratiot, The Crossroads Mall in Portage, Lansing Mall, Midland Mall in Larkin Township, and The Westwood Mall in Marquette.
While the other Michigan sites remain open, Adrian Mall was closed and condemned as a result of structural issues in June 2020, reported Lenconnect.com, part of the USA Today network.
Kohan Retail Investment Group’s purchase of The Midland Mall followed a similar pattern to its acquisition of Fashion Square Mall. In both cases, the previous owners lost the property through foreclosure.
Kohan Retail Investment Group purchased The Midland Mall for $9.4 million in June 2018, then announced plans to maintain the property as an indoor mall.
The company’s website indicated the investment group went on a shopping center buying spree of sorts recently, including purchasing 13 new shopping centers between June and November 2021.
Saginaw County municipal and business leaders said they have yet to speak to Kohan Retail Investment Group representatives, but were optimistic after hearing news about the new owners.
“We anticipate we will make contact with them pretty quickly,” Saginaw Township Manager Brian Rombalski said.
“We’re optimistic about what’s going to come for the future of the mall. It’s one of those things where, you take a deep breath, welcome the new group into the area, and see what kind of stuff they want to do and then form a relationship with them.”
The sale comes at a time when regional leaders have expressed hope for a resurgence of commerce along the mall’s business district, which borders Kochville Township.
JoAnn Crary, president of Saginaw Future Inc., said she spoke with Rombalski about working with the mall’s new owners to set up the company for success.
“Our goal is to try to get a meeting with the new owners so that we can learn their plans for the future and ways that we can potentially assist them,” Crary said. “There may be some incentive tools that we could explore if it makes sense to the community. We’re very interested because (Fashion Square Mall) needs to be a viable location.”
Kohan Retail Investment Group won the Aug. 24 auction in dramatic fashion after engaging in a down-to-the-wire online bidding war with a second investor, whose identity remains unknown.
The mall was available for purchase in part because its previous owner — Namdar Realty Group — in 2020 defaulted on $34.8 million in mortgage debt owed to Wells Fargo. The lending giant then grabbed the property last year as part of a foreclosure auction, with plans to sell it in the August online auction.
Officials with both Namdar Realty Group and Kohan Retail Investment Group list their headquarters in Great Neck, New York, less than two miles from each other.
Aside from Wells Fargo, Kohan Retail Investment Group has become the fourth owner to operate Fashion Square Mall.
The facility first opened Oct. 4, 1972, when shoppers first stepped through the doors of the facility built on 71 acres of farmland in northern Saginaw Township.
At the time, anchor tenants JCPenney and Sears were the site’s main attractions. Other inaugural retailers included Town & Country Fashions, William C. Wiechmann Co., Bintz Sports, Carter Shop, Seitner’s, Alfano’s Stride Rite, and Tait’s Hobby Shop.
Fashion Square Mall swelled with customers during the mall boom that helped define American culture in the 1970s and ‘80s. In turn, the shopping center fed a hungry commercial district, attracting business growth down Bay and Tittabawassee roads during those early decades.
In 1993, a new food court was added, keeping customers fed during long sessions spent browsing stores.
Eight years later, the facility underwent a $10 million facelift that applied a 21st century sheen to its 1970s-built body.
Foot traffic thinned in recent decades, though, both as a result of the region’s shrinking populace as well as consumer buying habits shifting toward online stores.
In January 2001, Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates Property Inc. purchased the complex along with 20 other regional malls and two shopping centers from the mall’s original developer — Cleveland-based Richard E. Jacobs Group Inc. — for $1.2 billion.
The mall was sold again in July 2016 to Namdar Realty Group — along with The Lakes in Muskegon — for an aggregate price of $66.5 million, including the assumption of a $38.2 million loan secured by Fashion Square Mall.
Not all of the 529,944-square-foot mall was sold in the August auction.
While most of the shops at the 100-unit mall are tenants, Macy’s owns its own box there.
Sears also owned its own box at the northernmost corner of the facility, although the store closed in 2019. Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Transformco — which now owns Sears and its former space in the mall — hired Stokas Bieri Real Estate to sell the old Sears unit. That property remains up for sale.
Saginaw’s Fashion Square Mall up for auction
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