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Gwinnett's Masino: 'We Need To Get Rid' Of Gwinnett Place Mall Owners

The chief economic cheerleader for one of Metro Atlanta's most affluent counties has no love for the owner of a major mall within its borders.

Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce
Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Economic Development Nick Masino

The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Economic Development Nick Masino called for Moonbeam Capital to get out of Gwinnett Place Mall's ownership.

“We have to replace Moonbeam development. They talk and talk and talk and do nothing,” Masino said, prompted by a question about the status of redevelopment at the more than 1.2M SF indoor mall off Pleasant Hill Road just outside the City of Duluth.

“The answer is we don't have a professional developer who owns the property who knows what the hell they're doing. So we need to get rid of them,” Masino said.

Gwinnett's Masino: 'We Need To Get Rid' Of Gwinnett Place Mall Owners
Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth, Ga.

Las Vegas-based Moonbeam Capital Investments purchased Gwinnett Place Mall in 2013 after special servicer C-III Asset Management foreclosed on the property for $39M, a far cry from an original $115M loan on the property.

Many say the health of Gwinnett Place has improved little since Moonbeam's acquisition, with many inline retail spaces empty and dark. Since its acquisition, Moonbeam officials have hinted at potential redevelopment, but have yet to present any solid plans to county officials.

In January, Moonbeam officials told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution it intended to file redevelopment plans with the county in March. That never happened, and in a follow-up story, Moonbeam CEO Steve Maksin offered no timetable as to when the mall would get a makeover.

“I'm not your best friend. I'm your only friend,” Maksin told the paper, reciting a line from the movie “Other People's Money” when asked what he thought about people who doubted Moonbeam's willingness or ability to revitalize the mall.

When approached for a response, Moonbeam Director of Marketing and Leasing Anna Khavulya replied by email: “Since Moonbeam purchased Gwinnett Place Mall our company began planning a redevelopment play at the mall site. Unfortunately, the retail aspect of the redevelopment had to be re-designed several times since the consumer retail needs have changed drastically over the last five years.

"Fortunately, Gwinnett Place Mall is well-suited for a mixed-use redevelopment (retail and office) with a large sports/entertainment component. A multifamily development is also in the cards. In addition, a number of national-caliber real estate development teams have proposed joint-venture opportunities to us. Finally, our local team has been in constant contact with the officials at Gwinnett County who have been very helpful and supportive of our redevelopment efforts.”

In a followup email to Bisnow, Maksin stated, “We are in the process of mall redevelopment, which has [a] lot of moving parts. We are dealing with a number of prospective tenants with whom [our] discussions are extremely confidential. Unfortunately, we cannot elaborate more on the topic for now.”

Moonbeam owns 10 malls throughout the U.S., a few of which are struggling much like Gwinnett. And the criticism of Moonbeam is not unique to Gwinnett Place. Some independent mom-and-pop retail tenants at Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge recently told the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report they were concerned about Moonbeam's “seeming lack of action” on improving that mall.

“Despite the company’s promises three years ago when it acquired the mall to remake the property and attract nontraditional tenants, existing tenants haven’t seen any evidence of progress,” the paper wrote.

Other Moonbeam mall holdings seem to be improving under its ownership, including Greeley Mall in Colorado. Occupancy at the mall improved since Moonbeam's 2012 acquisition, The Tribune reported last year.

As for Masino, a keynote speaker at Bisnow's Gwinnett Development Boom event June 15, the mall was not the sole topic of his conversation. He cited statistics about Gwinnett County, including some $500M in development taking place, and that the county's demographic diversity — where 25% of the population is foreign-born — is a preview of what the rest of the United States will look like in the future.

“We are what the rest of the United States will look like in 2040,” he said.

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