“It’s renaissance. It’s revitalization. It’s genesis,´ said Mayor Karen Weitkunat, addressing a crowd gathered near the portion of the mall that used to house Mervyn’s.
The $313 million redevelopment project has been in the works since Alberta Development Partners and its financing partner, Chicago-based Walton Street Capital, bought the aging mall for $39 million in July 2012.
The mall, constructed in 1973, has needed repair and renovation for more than 10 years, and the city has searched for a proper partner to make the mall a hub once again.
The city wanted to update the mall in order to create an increased sense of pride in both the Midtown area and the city itself, said Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry.
“It has never been about deal making. It has been about place making,” Atteberry said. “We’re going to see a significant transformation for this community.”
Serving nearly 10 years as city manager, Atteberry said that he has been working to find a solution for the problems at the mall for the duration of his term. Previous difficulties getting a redevelopment project off the ground have been one of his biggest disappointments, he said Wednesday.
But with work underway, Atteberry expressed only excitement and thanks.
“This is going to be a differentiator,” he said.
The groundbreaking marks the end of a long, troubled road.
The mall was developed and owned for decades by Fort Collins real estate icon Bob Everitt, and was expanded under the management of Everitt Cos. in 1980 and 1989, but by the early 2000s the aging facility was in need of a facelift.
By 2005, Everitt had sold to California-based General Growth Properties and redevelopment talks with the city were under way. But General Growth was doomed for bankruptcy, and the troubled mall was sold to Alberta in 2012.
Once Alberta took over, a redevelopment was on the horizon, but issues stemming from the $53 million public financing agreement with the city and persistent tenant issues delayed the groundbreaking of the redevelopment, which was supposed to occur last summer.
In January, the public financing agreement was approved a second time and signed, after having been initially approved by city council in May 2013.
With the groundbreaking, work on the project can begin in earnest. The mall is slated to open in fall 2015.