For the second time in a year, Independence Center has a new owner – this time a company with experience in large retail properties.
IGP Business Group, a company based in Los Angeles and whose portfolio includes Central Mall in Salina, Kansas, as well as malls in suburban Los Angeles and Orlando, recently bought the mall, and at least one local business leader says that should signal a more stable future.
Commercial Real Estate Direct reported last month that IGP (International Growth Properties) had purchased the mall for $57 million. Longtime mall owner Simon Properties had defaulted on a $200 million loan for the mall in February 2018, and Wachovia Bank Commercial Trust, a part of Wells Fargo, had secured the loan until IGB's purchase.
Tom Lesnak, president and CEO of the Independence Chamber of Commerce and president of the Independence Council for Economic Development, said IGP appears to have a good history and is well-respected.
“I think they'll invest in the mall and keep it vibrant,” Lesnak said. “There was a little uncertainty because of a bank holding it. It gets rid of that uncertainty.”
Pacific Retail Capital, also based in Los Angeles, had been managing the mall while the bank owned it. A vice president from Pacific confirmed it was no longer managing the mall. However, Realene Trumm, who had been the mall's general manager for Pacific Retail, has remained in that position for IGP.
“It's good to have that continuity with management,” Lesnak said. “We've been happy with the job they've done, with marketing the place.”
Pacific Retail had discussed possibly buying an interest in the Independence mall, but it would've been a difficult fit given the company's overall lack of presence in the Midwest.
IGP on Tuesday did not respond to an email seeking comment. Trumm also did not respond to a message seeking comment about the sale the mall's future.
The mall has had some stores come and go in the past year, Lesnak said, but nothing on a large scale. Having a bank owner, he said, likely made it a difficult sell for prospective tenants.
Regardless, the mall has maintained anchor tenants Macy's, Dillard's and Sears, which all own their spaces outright, and before the Simon default Dick's Sporting Goods moved into an area that included a small add-on to the mall.
In addition to Simon's default, the mall in February 2018 also experienced the Applebee's restaurant closing a few days after an alleged racial profiling incident that resulted in a viral video on social media. The restaurant initially announced it would close temporarily to “regroup” and learn from the incident, but after a few days the “Applebee's” sign had been removed and employees were told of the closure. That area of the mall at the main north entrance remains empty.
On its website, IGB says it was founded with a “mission to own and redevelop retail properties nationwide in the United States.” IGB owns the Oviedo Mall near Orlando, covering 954,000 square feet, as well as the 486,000 square foot Central Mall in Salina. The Moreno Valley Mall property in California covers more than 1 million square feet, about the size of Independence Center.
IGB has also introduced a District Eat & Play – a restaurant, bar, entertainment area, escape rooms and rooms for private gatherings – at the Oviedo Mall and an Arcadia Kid's Fun Museum with various hands-on learning experiences at both Oviedo and Moreno Valley.