SAGINAW TOWNSHIP, MI — Once the region’s retail centerpiece, Fashion Square Mall itself will become a purchasable item for shoppers next month.
The Saginaw Township-based indoor mall — which remains open for business — will be available in an online auction beginning Monday, Aug. 22, according to the webpage of the real estate company overseeing the event.
The opening bid: $2.3 million.
“The 67% occupied mall boasts an excellent mix of national and local tenants and benefits from strong anchors such as Macy’s, JCPenney, AMC Theater and other surrounding retailers,” the sale’s marketing tells online auctions.
News of the planned sale comes as no surprise to people familiar with the mall’s recent status. Officials of NAI Farbman, a Southfield-based commercial real estate development company, said last year that the company plans to put the property up for auction in 2022 on behalf of Wells Fargo.
NAI Farbman is listed as one of the managers of the online auction, along with Ten-X, a real estate company based in Irvine, Calif.
The mall’s former owner – Great Neck, New York’s Namdar Realty Group – defaulted in 2020 on $34.8 million in mortgage debt owed to Wells Fargo, setting up the lending giant to foreclose on the property l year as part of a foreclosure auction.
Community leaders were also anticipating a transition of ownership at the mall. Last fall, the Saginaw Township Board of Directors finalized a community master plan that outlined a strategy to help the future owners of Fashion Square Mall revitalize the nearly 50-year-old commercial property.
“While the current mall is almost entirely a commercial district, future redevelopment of this collective district could include many non-commercial – or even non-commercial – uses and concepts,” the new master plan states. “The township will continue to engage with stakeholders to review community-beneficial proposals and investments in the Fashion Square Mall area.”
The entire mall is not available for sale.
While most of the stores in the 100-unit mall are tenants, Macy’s has its own box there.
Sears also had its own box in the northernmost corner of the facility, although the store closed in 2019. Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Transformco, which now owns Sears and its former space in the mall, has hired Stokas Bieri Real Estate to sell the former Sear Unit. The property remains for sale.
Fashion Square Mall opened on October 4, 1972, when shoppers first walked through the doors of the establishment built on 71 acres of farmland.
At the time, anchor tenants JCPenney and Sears were the site’s main attractions. Other inaugural retailers included Town & Country Fashions, William C. Wiechmann Co., Bintz Sports, Carter Shop, Seitner’s, Alfano’s Stride Rite, and Tait’s Hobby Shop.
Fashion Square Mall swelled with customers during the mall boom that helped define American culture in the 1970s and 1980s. In turn, the mall fueled a starving commercial district in Saginaw Township, attracting growth businesses on the Bay and Tittabawassee roads in those early decades.
In 1993, a new food court was added, allowing customers to feed themselves during long sessions spent browsing the stores.
Eight years later, the facility underwent a $10 million facelift that applied a 21st-century shine to its 1970s-built bodywork.
However, foot traffic has declined over the past few decades, both due to the region’s declining population and the shift in consumer shopping habits to online stores.
In January 2001, Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates Property Inc. purchased the complex along with 20 other regional shopping centers and two shopping centers from the mall’s original developer – Cleveland-based Richard E. Jacobs Group Inc. – for 1.2 billion dollars.
Fifteen years later, the mall was sold in July 2016 to Namdar Realty Group – along with The Lakes in Muskegon – for a total price of $66.5 million, including the assumption of a $38 loan. $2 million guaranteed by Fashion Square Mall.
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