CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Charleston Urban Renewal Authority is beginning to weigh its options in connection with its relationship with the financially struggling Charleston Town Center Mall.
The CURA board met Wednesday to begin discussing those options. CURA owns the property the mall’s parking garages sit on. The mall pays CURA $300,000 a year for its use of the property, which comes in $75,000 quarterly payments. Because of the mall’s current debt issues, it’s possible CURA won’t receive it’s next quarterly payment due next month, according to CURA Director Ron Butlin.
U.S. Bank National America filed a lawsuit last month against the mall owners. According to the lawsuit, the owners breached a contract by defaulting on a multi-million dollar loan. The balance on the loan was nearly $100 million. According to Butlin, the attorney representing the loan on the mall has said the mall wasn’t going to be making any payments.
“That’s always the first position you’re going to take until you figure out (things financially),” Butlin said.
Butlin said it’s important for CURA to weigh its options and be prepared. He said one possible option is for CURA to foreclose on the parking garage property and take the garages over and pay off the bond debt the mall owners still have on the structures.
“It’s too early to tell but my initial thought is, yes, that’s very attractive, but we just don’t know all of the facts yet,” Butlin said.
Butlin said the whole situation with the mall’s debt and finances is very convoluted but the facility is important to Charleston and CURA must be proactive when it comes to the parking garages.
“It’s a big asset, it’s an important asset. It’s important to the City of Charleston. It’s important to the mall and the hotels, etc.. Yes, we have to be prepared,” Butlin said.
CURA uses the $300,000 a year it gets from the mall owners for its projects.
“It will temporarily curtail our ability to do new projects but it’s like any revenue cut you have to figure out what you are going to do and if that’s going to be short-term or long-term,” Butlin said.
The mall’s operators, Forest City Enterprises, of Cleveland, announced in May it was looking to sell its 26 percent stake in the shopping center to Australian-based Queensland Investment Corp., who owns 24 percent. QIC tried unsuccessfully in October to buy that stake.