A Diamond In The Rough: Plano Ghost Mall In Opportunity Zone May Finally Sell
You could hear a pin drop when walking through Plano Market Square Mall, a 36-year-old indoor shopping center sitting on 26 acres of prime real estate near U.S Highway 75 in the Dallas suburb of Plano.
All that is left inside is a quaint corridor illuminated by lampposts and a golf cart that reminds visitors of a time when shoppers traversed the hallways.
The center may look hopelessly stuck in time, but real estate brokers see a true diamond in the rough.
“This is like a crown jewel in the city of Plano, because Plano is pretty much built out,” said SperryCGA - ENGVEST broker Calvin Wong, who is listing the property for sale with colleague Daniel Eng. “This is probably one of the last remaining meaningful tracts. It’s 26 acres that you can do something with.”
But after four years on the market and several lost deals, Plano Market Square Mall is under contract to a local development group, and other prospective buyers are waiting in the wings in case the deal falls through, according to Wong and Eng.
The local development group under contract brings experience with big-box redevelopment and is a breath of fresh air for Eng and Wong, who accepted the listing in 2015. The duo has experienced many ups and downs in four years.
The mall's longtime owner, the Loh family, first envisioned a grocery store on site. Then, Wong and Eng entertained the idea of purchasing the property themselves and developing a family-focused education and daycare destination. Others along the way pitched medical offices as possible tenants.
But the tide truly changed when the Loh family lost revenue-generating anchor tenant Garden Ridge (now known as At Home). Aside from stalwart visitors to the Plano Antique Mall, the hallways inside are lifeless.
But Eng and Wong said the structure, built in 1983, is sound, and the site offers immediate access to Central Expressway in the landlocked suburb.
Eng and Wong declined to discuss what type of development will move in, but said many of their prospects envisioned an office and retail mixed-use concept.
“There are so many concepts, we just need to nail it down,” Eng said. “Offices would be great because it would help the restaurants in this area.”
With the site close to future projections for the DART rail, it is an obvious pick for investors and developers looking to drop capital in opportunity zones.
Eng and Wong are hopeful the pending contract will close, but with the site's value up approximately 20% in four years, they remain confident either way.
“I think with the prolonged upmarket, it definitely helps us get more attention on this opportunity," Wong said. "And with the opportunity zone [in place], it definitely puts this on the map for people because I receive calls from out of state."
Investors and buyers from both coasts called Wong and Eng this past year to say the mall landed on their opportunity zone target lists.
But, perhaps, the best bellwether of the property's value is the fact the brokers continue to receive inquiries from tenants who want to lease space inside the dead mall.
“We actually get a lot of inquiries about the space,” Wong said. “But, because the owners know they want to sell it, they don't want to mess with leases.”