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By March 1, Ginsborg’s company, Fort Collins-based NewMark Merrill Mountain States, must sign an agreement with department store chain Dillard’s Inc. on a redevelopment plan, according to a schedule laid out by the city of Longmont.
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Dillard’s can prohibit any new development on the mall site, based on an agreement between the retailer and mall owners that was signed several decades ago, Ginsborg said. The good news, according to Ginsborg, is that Dillard’s representatives have said the company wants to continue to operate at the site.
Dillard’s spokeswoman Julie Bull in Little Rock, Ark., offered only a “no comment” when asked about negotiations.
Ginsborg hopes to demolish the 550,000-square-foot mall at 1250 S. Hover St. and create an outdoor shopping village that will include a new movie theater, a natural-foods grocery store, a separate 100,000-square-foot retail store and other stores and amenities.
“We have worked hard on it for a year,” Ginsborg said of negotiations. “To deliver the project for Christmas of 2014, it’s important that we come to some understanding with Dillard’s.”
To help move negotiations along, Longmont City Council members recently set the wheels in motion to — if necessary — declare eminent domain to remove “blighted conditions” at the mall.
The council also has created an urban renewal area around the mall and elected officials can act as an urban renewal authority to make decisions about the area.
“Members of council have said that eminent domain is a tool in the toolbox of the urban renewal authorityw, but it’s the last tool we want to use,” said councilman Gabe Santos, Longmont’s deputy mayor. “If we need to use it, hopefully everybody will negotiate in good faith.”
Councilwoman Katie Witt agreed, adding that she doesn’t believe the urban renewal authority will have to act.
“We will use it if we have to, but I do not believe we’re going to have to,” Witt said. “All parties are working hard to complete negotiations according to the timeline.”
Ginsborg said the city’s action has helped him make progress with Dillard’s negotiations. “All parties are at the table now. If we all stay level-headed, we’ll figure this out,” he said.
At the same time, Regal Entertainment Group has signed a preliminary lease agreement that helps NewMark Merrill’s plans move forward. Regal spokeswoman Rachel Lueras said Regal expects to meet all deadlines. Regal, based in Knoxville, Tenn., operates the existing 10-screen United Artists theaters at the site.
“Our real estate department is working closely with the developer. They have agreed upon schedules, and they have every expectation to meet them,” Lueras said.
NewMark Merrill bought the aging indoor mall for $8.5 million last year. Since then, Ginsborg said he has spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on the project. He characterizes the mall project as the biggest risk he has taken in 30 years as a developer on the Front Range.