CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Mayor Danny Jones expects the city to use the Charleston Town Center Mall’s parking garage property as its leverage in future financial dealings concerning the large retail shopping center.
In a wide-ranging interview that aired Thursday during Jones’ talk show, 580 Live, on 580 WCHS Radio in Charleston, the mayor said some things about Town Center and its financial struggles that he hasn’t previously discussed publicly.
Jones said Macy’s, one of the mall’s two remaining anchor stores, is not paying rent as part of its deal to stay at the Town Center at least through early 2019. He also said the $100 million renovation to the Charleston Civic Center is a key to keeping Macy’s.
“If it hadn’t been for that Civic Center and what we’re doing over there–I think Macy’s, despite the fact they are not paying any rent, would have left anyway,” Jones predicted.
The mall’s owners have about $93 million in debt on the mall and another $14 million on the parking garage. U.S. Bank National America filed a lawsuit last month calling for the property to be put in receivership. Jones expects that to happen in January.
Jones claims there was “mischief” among mall owners when in 2007 they refinanced the mall’s $40 million debt for approximately $100 million. That financial deal raises questions, Jones said.
“What happened to the rest of the money?”
The Charleston Urban Renewal Authority owns the land where the profitable parking garages are located. The mall owners have a $14 million bond debt on the garages plus they pay CURA $300,000 a year for the property. Jones said the city has leverage in any future mall financial dealings because it owns the garage property.
“That’s our leverage and we have monthly parkers there. We think there’s been enough mischief going on and we are going to be on top of this,” Jones said.
There aren’t as many retailers in the mall this Christmas and there were last Christmas and Jones said that’s probably due to the uncertainty.
“Leases come up and people don’t know about the future of the Town Center so some stores are pulling out,” Jones said.
Jones predicts there will be a buyer for the mall once it goes into receivership. The city will deal with that potential owner through the leverage of the parking garage property. Jones said despite all of the unpredictability, he’s confident about Town Center’s future.
“Maybe the Charleston Town Center will be something totally different,” he said. “Something’s going to happen there. I’m not that pessimistic where I don’t think something is going to happen.”
Sears closed at the Town Center in April. J.C. Penney and Macy’s are the remaining anchor stores.
Jones, who is serving his last term in office, said his thoughts are dominated by the current situation.
“Every awakening minute of my life is that Town Center now. I think about it when I go to bed and I think about it when I’m getting up. I’m one of the first people in there in the morning. I buy my coffee at Starbucks. I see the people who work at Brickstreet and I see the people who work in the mall,” he said.