Century III Mall under new management now

| Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011

Effective today, Century III Mall is under new management.

"The Century III Mall is going through an ownership transition and Jones Lang LaSalle Retail has been brought in to manage the property going forward," said JLL vice president and regional marketing manager Carol O'Grady, who will be working with the staff at the West Mifflin shopping complex.

"The day-to-day operations do not change," said O'Grady, whose company has its corporate offices in Chicago and branch offices in other cities including Pittsburgh. "The stores and our customers won't even notice a change. Business will go on as usual ... and we'll be there to service the needs of our shoppers."

The move followed Simon Property Group's voluntary default on $78.97 million in debt on the 1.3 million-square-foot mall built in 1979 on former slag heaps between Allegheny County Airport and the Pleasant Hills business district. Simon bought it from DeBartolo Realty in 1996.

"We are the nation's largest real estate management company," the JLL executive said. "We (handle) third-party management only for shopping centers. We do not own any of (those) properties. We service the client and owner of the property."

For now, O'Grady said, she only could give "limited" details about the end of Simon's era at the mall.

"We are extremely excited that we are going to get someone in there to market it," West Mifflin Mayor Christopher Kelly said, adding Simon failed to invest in improving the property to draw in new retail tenants.

A Simon spokesman declined comment.

Simon put Century III Mall on the block in April 2006. While the company handling the transaction reported "quite a bit of interest" in the facility, no sale ever was reported.

In February 2008, the company denied reports it planned to close the mall.

In March 2009, mall officials reached out to borough leaders as part of what was to be a year-long "community celebration" of the mall's 30th anniversary.

Simon also owns Ross Park Mall and South Hills Village. According to Simon's 2010 report, Century III was 76.1 percent occupied as of Dec. 31, Ross Park Mall 94.8 percent occupied and South Hills Village 94.2 percent occupied.

"They are spending tons of money in properties in more affluent areas," Kelly said. "They were willing to let this go by the wayside."

Indianapolis-based Simon announced Aug. 23 that it is in a joint venture with Tanger Factory Outlet Centers Inc. to build a new outlet center between Houston and Galveston in Texas.

Earlier in the month, Simon announced plans by its Premium Outlets division to expand "four of its most productive" properties in California, Florida, Illinois and Washington.

In its second quarter report in July, the company said net income was $205.1 million, compared to $152.5 million for the same period a year ago.

"This growth was driven by higher revenues generated by our core portfolio as well as the positive impact of our acquisition activity," CEO David Simon told investors. "Our operating fundamentals reflect the high quality of our assets with higher occupancy, sales and rent than (in the second quarter of 2010)."

By comparison, the value of Simon's West Mifflin asset plummeted in the eyes of Allegheny County assessors, from $112 million to $58 million, affecting real estate tax revenues for both the borough of West Mifflin and West Mifflin Area School District.

During recent WMASD budget considerations, officials said the devaluation cut the mall's annual tax bill to the district by $1.9 million.

Kim Leonard of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review contributed to this story.

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