The winning bid for Elyria’s Midway Mall came from Namdar Realty Group.
The new owners of the shopping center offered just one bid — the final one — when the property went up for online auction July 12.
Igal Namdar, the owner and president of the privately held investment and management firm, purchased Midway Mall at auction for just under $4.5 million through a limited liability corporation, Elyria Realty.
Transfer documents filed with the Lorain County Auditor’s Office list the owner as Namdar from Great Neck, N.Y.
Namdar owns Namdar Realty Group, which is linked to a number of other retail shopping center and mall purchases in recent years, including the River Street Square Shopping Center where the old Elyria Walmart sits. That property was purchased in March 2015 through River Street Realty LLC and with Namdar named as the buyer. The company lists the Sheffield Center in Sheffield Township in its portfolio, too.
According to the company’s website, Namdar owns and operates more than 20 million square feet of commercial real estate in the United States with a portfolio that includes more than 100 retail centers, medical buildings and office properties.
The company’s purchases primarily are in the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast. Calls and emails to Namdar requesting comment were not returned.
Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda said she recently spoke with Elliot Nassim, who owns Mason Asset Management Group, which will manage Midway Mall on behalf of Namdar. Nassim initiated the 40-minute-long telephone conversation.
“We talked about the impressions of the property, and we talked about the highest and best use study,” she said. “This was not one of the companies that came and met in advance of the sale with the city of Elyria or with the assessment management firm, so I am learning as we go with them… They came in and made one, final and only bid.”
Nassim also did not return a call or an email requesting comment.
The first change coming to the mall will be in the day-to-day operation. Brinda said Mark Bressler is out as mall manager. Kyle Wandrie is replacing him and should be in place later this month.
As far as development, Brinda said Nassim told her the philosophy is to work from the outside in.
“So we can expect to see them try to fill the restaurants and outlying building first,” she said. “They believe they can do that and have some good prospects already.”
The group could also look to sell off some of the free-standing properties, she said.
While Brinda said the city will continue to put forth the suggestions made in the highest and best use study known to Namdar and Mason, it is too early to see if the study will gain legs with the new owners. Brinda said the city is open to helping the new owners redevelop the mall using public financing.
“It sounds like they are going to try it their way,” she said. “They didn’t disagree with the plan, but my impression is their philosophy is they are going to try to fill the space as is first.”
Jeff Green Partners and the Hoffman Strategy Group, commissioned by the city for $50,000 to study the area, believe the mall is well-suited to shrink and change to a mixed-used development with shopping, office space, hotels, entertainment and residential homes.
Crocker Park, Green said, is probably this region’s best example of a successful mixed-used retail and commercial complex. While he stopped short of saying Midway Mall has to become the next Crocker Park to survive, he did say that taking notes from its development could bode well for the mall.
Namdar also has a stake in a former high-value property in Northeast Ohio, the Severance Town Center (formerly Severance Mall) in Cleveland Heights. His company bought that for $10.5 million in May 2016.
Earlier this month, a consultant that has been in touch with Namdar offered Cleveland Heights City Council and administration a presentation on the developing the area. However, the plan went out 15 to 20 years and put a lot of pressure on the city.
Media reports quote City Manager Tanisha Briley as saying the owners still do not have major redevelopment plans for the site.
“But they are willing to be a partner with the city, if the city wants to lead the effort,” she said then.
Brinda said Elyria is willing to do the same.
“They are open to working with the city. I was glad to get that reassurance,” she said. “They said the reconfiguration of state Route 57 and the removal of the 49th Street bridge is a real plus and that the site has a lot of potential … I left the phone call feeling cautiously optimistic.”
The building that formerly housed Dillard’s as well as the Macy’s department store and Sears department store were not part of the sale.
Those are owned separately by different owners and they each are unique to the overall property.
Macy’s still owns its building and is negotiating with a company that specializes in selling new and used power sports equipment to take over the location. Johnny K’s Powersports is seeking a rezoning of the parcel to move into the area.
Brinda called Sears a “wild card” as the company has a tradition of holding onto properties even after closing stores.
“We would like to see the buildings go up for sale and repurposed,” she said. “The city will continue to push for that as the best outcome for the property.”
Dillard’s is the real challenge right now, Brinda said.
The California-based owner is eager to sell, but the building has water and other damage that is hampering that. Also, it is unattractive to sell because it is two stories.
“I had no idea no one wanted a two-story department store,” she said. “So the best idea may be to just demolish it. We wouldn’t want to keep it the way it is.”
However, Brinda said the city can’t afford to buy it and funds for demolition, should the property be donated, are scarce. She said she is trying to figure out a way for the Elyria Community Improvement Corp. to step in because that would open up another 18 acres of land to redevelop.
In the meantime, the former Mountain Jack’s property on Lorain Boulevard is being marketed as the site of a possible higher-end restaurant or a place that can accommodate large meetings, parties and gatherings. Brinda said those would be good uses.
“All of these things collectively are very positive for the area, because there is a really a lot of movement going on. It just takes time,” she said. “We will have to wait and see on how successful (Namdar) is in showing those commercial spaces. We are trying to make things happen to the extent in which we can have some influence ... But we need to be prepared with a safety net if it proves to be difficult to fill those commercial spaces.”
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