Will Gwinnett Place Mall Finally Be Sold? Stranger Things Have Happened
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The owners of Gwinnett Place Mall are preparing to put the ailing shopping center up for sale.
Moonbeam Capital Investments has tapped Colliers International Atlanta to market its piece of the 1.2M SF mall, which includes the main commercial portion and dozens of acres of parking, Bisnow has learned.
This comes months after Moonbeam Chief Operating Officer Shawl Pryor told Gwinnett County officials that the company intended to put the mall up for sale because, as he wrote, “the time was right and we want to be part of Gwinnett's success,” according to emails obtained by Bisnow through an open records request.
“I think there's some motivation to sell by the seller,” Colliers Senior Vice President Tony D'Ambrosio said. “I think they've proven they're not the developer to take it to the next iteration of what it will be.”
Since it bought its 562K SF portion of the mall, Moonbeam has been a frequent source of frustration for county officials and economic developers after repeated assurances it would redevelop the mall never came to fruition.
Other than the mall being the main setting for the third season of Netflix's Stranger Things, Moonbeam has let Gwinnett Place Mall's main shopping area deteriorate as storefronts went dark. Some sections of the mall were so devoid of life that a homicide victim was concealed behind the defunct food court for two weeks before the body was discovered.
“Our true hope is that we get a new owner who is really interested in making the changes to bring the property back as a viable, vibrant endeavor,” Ackerman & Co. President of Retail Leo Wiener said. “We've had, whatever, four-plus years of promises? Hopefully the next owner makes promises and keeps them.”
Neither Pryor nor Moonbeam CEO Steven Maksin returned messages seeking comment.
D'Ambrosio and Colliers International Executive Managing Director Joe Montgomery are marketing the mall for Moonbeam. No firm dates in the bidding and sales process have been set as of press time, but D'Ambrosio said it is possible the firm could issue a call for final offers by year's end. That could see the mall finding a new owner by next year.
No asking price has been set, D'Ambrosio said.
Moonbeam picked up the 562K SF enclosed retail portion of the mall out of foreclosure in 2013 for $13.5M, according to county records, a far cry from the original $115M loan on the property. All told, there are five separate owners for the entire mall and its surrounding parking, including Macy's and Northwood Ravin, which purchased the shuttered Sears store last year.
This latest listing is only the most recent development that has inspired hope for Gwinnett Place Mall's future.
Last year, Moonbeam's Maksin partnered with a fast-food franchise owner and former Global Sports Ventures Chairman Jignesh “Jay” Pandya and formed CricRealtyCo. Pandya pitched USA Cricket to get the right to establish professional T20 cricket teams in the U.S. In turn, CricRealtyCo. planned to redevelop properties, including Gwinnett Place Mall, into stadiums.
That effort suffered a possibly fatal blow in May when USA Cricket instead awarded those rights to an organization backed by principals of The Times of India group. Pandya has since sued USA Cricket after losing the bid, according to Forbes.
D'Ambrosio said plans to turn the mall into a cricket stadium were never that realistic.
“I don't know why it even made the news,” he said. "It was never a deal."
Northwood Ravin has made overtures in the past to buy the rest of the mall from Moonbeam. Northwood Ravin Vice President Ben Yorker told Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District Executive Director Joe Allen in a February 2018 email that his company hoped to acquire the entire mall. If that effort failed, Yorker said the developer would continue to move ahead with redeveloping the former Sears store.
“In this 'worst-case' scenario, we believe that our redevelopment of the Sears' 11 acres would catalyze a redevelopment of the whole thing, regardless of whether we get to participate or not,” Yorker wrote in the email.
Three months later, Yorker again assured Allen that he was pushing for Northwood to acquire the Sears even though the “site is the spookiest one for Northwood, due to the 'Moonbeam factor.'” That June, Northwood Ravin acquired the Sears store for $11M, according to county property records.
D'Ambrosio said he expects Northwood Ravin will bid on Moonbeam's property. Yorker did not return calls seeking comment.
Other parties have expressed interest in the mall as well. In June of last year, Georgia economic development officials brought investors from China, who had an interest in the mall, to meet with county staffers, the emails revealed.
Montgomery, who is now on the Colliers team marketing the mall, told county officials in December he represented “investors currently considering purchase of the 35-acre property,” according to emails. It was unknown in both cases what ended up happening with those parties and whether they are planning to bid on the mall.
For Moonbeam, the sale would continue a nationwide pattern. It has already sold five of its 11 malls, including the empty Burlington Center Mall in New Jersey, which Maksin called “a cancer,” NJ.com reported in February.
“It’s not going to be used as a mall ever again,” Maksin told NJ.com. "It’s no longer viable. The cancer is the mall itself embedded in a beautiful body."
Moonbeam sold the mall to a Texas developer for $22M, seven years after it acquired it for $3.4M out of foreclosure.
“This potential sale gives us an opportunity to finally move the area forward. The Gwinnett Place Mall properties represent the premier redevelopment opportunity in Gwinnett County,” Allen told Bisnow in an email. “Through this process, Gwinnett Place Mall now has the chance to become a flourishing center for an internationally diverse, sustainable, green, livable urban community.”