Real Estate & Construction  November 5, 2010

Tough task: Manage life into Twin Peaks Mall

LONGMONT – The man charged with turning around the fate of the struggling Twin Peaks Mall in Longmont said a quick rebound is not likely, and he will focus on boosting holiday sales and improving the tenant mix while new management creates a long-term plan.

NewMark Merrill Mountain States LLC, the Fort Collins-based division of NewMark Merrill Cos. LLC of Woodland Hills, Calif., took over the mall Oct. 1. The company was selected by owner Panattoni Development Co. to manage the mall and create a long-term vision plan.

NewMark Merrill managing director Allen Ginsborg, who works out of Fort Collins, said his company has been meeting with retailers, Longmont elected officials and city staff as it assesses what the mall needs for a rebound.

Ginsborg characterizes the work as research and due diligence, and he said it is too early in NewMark Merrill’s tenure to have an answer for the now perennial question of how to save the 556,000-square-foot mall that was built in 1983.

“I don’t want to pretend that I’ve got the answer, yet,” Ginsborg said.

“These things are incremental and take a lot of patience,” he said. “We’re just plodding away, doing our jobs. In this economy, there’s a little more plodding than we’d like.”

There is a sense of urgency, though.

“The mall’s definitely at a tipping point. It needs to start moving in the other direction. The trend line has not been positive,” Ginsborg said.

Year-to-date revenue through July was down 8.2 percent, according to the latest sales-tax report from the Longmont Division of Finance. Through July 31, the mall reported revenue of $19.1 million, down from $20.8 million in 2009 for the same period.

In all of 2009, the mall reported taxable sales of $37.4 million, down 18.8 percent from the $46 million reported in 2008. In 2007, the mall reported sales of $54.7 million. From 2007 to 2009, revenue dropped 31.6 percent.

Twin Peaks struggling

A visit to Twin Peaks Mall confirms the impression it is struggling. Spaces set aside for two anchor stores are vacant, and one end of the mall has been closed off to patrons. Vacant storefronts are scattered throughout the building, the food court is largely abandoned and clerks at many stores mill around waiting for customers.

The anchor space formerly occupied by J.C. Penney was to be the home of a new 25,000-square-foot Sprouts Farmers Market, a natural foods grocer based in Phoenix that announced its move-in plans in August 2009. But that is now on hold, Ginsborg said.

Sprouts vice president for store development Seth Brown said the grocer continues to look at adding a location in Longmont, but he would not commit to opening at the mall.

“We are continuing to evaluate our opportunities in Longmont; we’re hopeful,” he said.

Management’s immediate task is to get people back into the mall, especially as the crucial holiday shopping season nears, Ginsborg said. The mall has scheduled a number of holiday and community events including ones sponsored by the American Cancer Society and a blood drive for the Bonfils Blood Center.

A successful season could build momentum and restore the confidence of retailers that the mall is a good place to locate.

Twin Peaks Mall “has to get retailers to see that this can work, that we can have success,” Ginsborg said.

Management also is aware the mall has lost the favor of many area residents.

“A shopping center should be an extension of the community and a place where people have a good experience that’s not just buying something,” Ginsborg said.

While the economy has hit all retailers hard, some parts of Longmont are doing relatively well. Year-to-date sales across the city have been up 2.4 percent from last year, according to the latest sales-tax report. The shopping centers on the periphery of Twin Peaks Mall have reported modest increases in year-to-date sales.

City willing to help

The city of Longmont is willing to do what it can to help boost the mall’s revenue, said Brad Power, the city’s director of economic development.

A successful mall means more sales-tax revenue for the city and more options for residents, Power said.

“Part of being a full-service community is you offer as much shopping to residents as possible,” he added.

A successful redevelopment project could also spur new development in the area.

“The motivation is to try to reposition Twin Peaks in a way that complements the other stores in the area,” Power said.

Longmont City Council in 2008 approved a redevelopment plan that recommended the area become a mixed-use development with retail, office space and residential homes on mall property. Whether those recommendations come to fruition is unclear. The mall is privately owned, so its future ultimately is in the hands of Panattoni, Power said.

Panattoni, based in Sacramento, Calif., bought the mall in 2007 for $33 million.

It is also unclear whether or not Panattoni will be able to receive tax increment financing for the project.

“We can’t negotiate that until we know what project they are bringing forth,” Power said.

NewMark Merrill and Panattoni are far from the point where they could present such a plan, Ginsborg said.

LONGMONT – The man charged with turning around the fate of the struggling Twin Peaks Mall in Longmont said a quick rebound is not likely, and he will focus on boosting holiday sales and improving the tenant mix while new management creates a long-term plan.

NewMark Merrill Mountain States LLC, the Fort Collins-based division of NewMark Merrill Cos. LLC of Woodland Hills, Calif., took over the mall Oct. 1. The company was selected by owner Panattoni Development Co. to manage the mall and create a long-term vision plan.

NewMark Merrill managing director Allen Ginsborg, who works out of Fort…

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