Foothills Mall developer: Rehab off unless Sears can be acquired

FORT COLLINS — The redevelopment of the aging Foothills Mall will be called off unless the new owners of the mall are able to acquire the Sears property, either through purchase or eminent domain, the would-be developer said Thursday.

Should that occur, the mall’s new owners will instead seek to “maximize leasing potential,” Don Provost of Alberta Development Partners, the Denver-based developer planning a $100 million redevelopment of the mall, said in an interview.

In a related development, City Manager Darin Atteberry today said that the eminent domain decision would be postponed for 30 days because Sears officials agreed to sit down with Alberta.

The vote had been scheduled for Jan. 15, but instead, officials from the city and both companies will have a face-to-face meeting, Atteberry said.

If no agreement is reached, then eminent domain will be back on the table, he said.

Atteberry has been aware of Alberta’s resolve to abandon redevelopment plans if the Sears property cannot be acquired, he said Thursday. A lot of business people and community members want the development to happen, he said, and there are high expectations for the project.

Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat said that her sympathies are with the developer.

“I hear him,” she said. “It’s a matter of public good.”

The mayor explained that the mall’s redevelopment is key to the city’s hopes of revitalizing Midtown.

“It’s the sum of the parts, not just the mall. I’m talking about all of it. (Sears) is not on its own in this.”

Walton Foothills Holdings, the limited liability corporation formed by Walton Street Capital, purchased the mall last summer and is hoping to draw higher-end tenants and introduce other more upscale amenities as part of the redevelopment.

But the developers have made it clear that Sears does not fit the tenant mix they are seeking and has offered to purchase the building that Sears inhabits.

It’s not that the developers object to Sears. Rather, the problem is that the location of Sears does not fit in with the developers’ plans, Provost said.

According to a letter submitted to Atteberry in his capacity as executive director of the Urban Renewal Authority, “the property owned by Sears is at a critical location within the overall mall property.”

The real estate there is being “underutilized,” according to Provost. The plans envisioned for that spot include two or three high-end anchor tenants, water features, new atriums and more.

The property also faces College Avenue, making it an important point of entry for the mall, even though existing street access will remain.

Because College Avenue is also a state highway, Provost said, no alterations can be made to create an access point directly from College Avenue. Right now, the easiest access to the mall from College is via Foothills Parkway.

Without access to the Sears property, Provost said, the developers will not be able to rehabilitate the infrastructure there. A Foothills Mall Existing Conditions Survey, produced by the city, shows that there are several problems with sidewalks, drainage and vehicle circulation at the mall.

Walton has made two offers to Sears for their property, neither of which garnered any response, according to Provost.

He declined to reveal how much was offered, but said an independent appraisal of the property ordered up by the city was “not much higher than the offers made.”

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Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, marmbrister@ncbr.com or twitter.com/MArmbristerNCBR
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