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District wants more mall taxes


Elyria school officials say land should be valued at $89 million, not $44 million

ELYRIA - Elyria Schools wants to double the value of a good-sized chunk of Midway Mall - a move that, if successful, would double the amount of taxes the district takes in from the mall.

The district contends that the value of 47.5 acres of land - including the main part of the mall, the movie theater, JCPenney, the strip mall anchored by Staples and several small buildings in the area - which now are valued at $44.4 million should increase in value to $89.1 million.

Timothy Armstrong, the district`s attorney, said the district believes the property is worth more, but its $89 million figure isn`t set in stone.

"These are values put on to get the process going, and then the facts come out," he said.

The timing was right to seek the higher valuation, Armstrong said, because two tax abatements on the property expired last year and wouldn`t muddy the process. Those abatements, which stemmed from the 1991 renovations and additions to the mall, covered nearly 28 acres of land and allowed the mall`s owners to avoid paying 75 percent of the taxes for that parcel.

Centro Watt, the company that bought the mall in May 2006 from Westfield Group as part of a five-mall, $524 million deal, has not contested the school board`s efforts yet, and company officials did not return calls seeking comment.

The increased value sought by the schools is closer to the $98.5 million that Centro Watt paid to assume a controlling interest in Midway Mall in the larger deal.

Chief Deputy County Auditor Linda Keys said Centro Watt officials were unaware when the company bought the mall that the abatements on the property were scheduled to come off in 2006 and were unhappy when they learned their tax bill would be significantly higher than anticipated.

Elyria Mayor Bill Grace, who has expressed his concern about the future of the mall, said the school district`s efforts to double the taxes Centro Watt pays on the property - from around $824,000 to conceivably as high as $1.6 million annually - has nothing to do with the city.

"It`s a matter between the schools and the property owner," Grace said.

Without the abatements, the school district will get about $577,000, or around 70 percent, of the property taxes paid by Centro Watt on the property annually at its current value, Keys said. If successful in increasing the property`s worth, the district could take in more than $1.1 million in tax revenue.

Grace said he talks regularly with Centro Watt officials and is hopeful that the mall will be revitalized.

"I`m very optimistic about the future of Midway Mall in Elyria, but it`s going to take a significant amount of effort and investment," Grace said.

Earlier this year, the school district tried and failed to convince the county Board of Revisions to raise the value of 12 acres that Macy`s bought as part of its takeover of the Kaufmann`s department store chain. The district had wanted the value, currently listed at nearly $5.9 million, to increase to $9.7 million, the amount Macy`s paid for the property in 2006.

The district is not seeking to increase the value of the 19.6 acres of land at the mall owned by Sears or the 16.7 acres that once housed the now-shuttered Dillard`s store, neither of which have abatements in place.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or

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