Sunday, October 13, 2002

What's the Buzz?

N.Y. firm seeking to buy Tri-County Mall in $425M deal

New York-based Blackstone Group is negotiating the purchase of a trio of malls for about $425 million, including Tri-County Mall in Springdale.

Blackstone spokesman John Ford confirmed the investment firm wants to buy Tri-County Mall; Southdale Center in suburban Minneapolis; and Dakota Square in Minot, N.D. He declined to discuss details of the purchase of the three malls owned by a joint venture between O'Connor Group and J.P. Morgan Chase.

The deal wouldn't include the purchase of Tri-County's four anchor stores, Dillard's, JC Penney, Lazarus and Sears.

The 1.3 million-square-foot Tri-County Mall would be the third area mall sold in recent weeks. Kenwood Towne Centre and Forest Fair Mall each were acquired recently.

Forest Fair owner Mills Corp. says consumers should expect to see big changes at the Fairfield mall, including a new blend of entertainment and shopping and a new name, Cincinnati Mills.

A joint venture of General Growth Partners and Teachers Retirement System of Illinois purchased Kenwood Towne Centre and three other malls for $634 million in August.

While Mr. Ford declined to discuss Blackstone's plans for Tri-County, he said the firm usually makes improvements to acquired malls.

Blackstone's real estate group has completed more than 100 deals involving 600 properties valued at $13 billion.

Jeff Johnston, a senior sales vice president of Grubb & Ellis West Shell Commercial in downtown Cincinnati, said the sales could be an indication that more large institutional investors are seeking to sell retail assets in second-tier cities such as Cincinnati.

“A lot of institutions have been focusing on top-tier markets,” Mr. Johnston said.

— Ken Alltucker

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- What's the Buzz?