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Business Observer Tuesday, Mar. 28, 2017 5 years ago

DeSoto Square Mall sold for $25.5 million

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Brooklyn, N.Y.-based investor plans $7 million worth of renovations to the struggling Bradenton retail hub

Bradenton's DeSoto Square Mall, which has been beset by industry headwinds and woes gripping aging enclosed malls throughout the Gulf Coast, has been sold to a Brooklyn-based investor for $25.5 million, records show.

DeSoto Owners LLC plans to begin $7 million worth of renovations to the property, which is anchored by department stores Sears and J.C. Penney, beginning next month.

New exterior LED lighting and parking enhancements are among the improvements slated for the mall, says general manager Don Burrow.

In addition, the new owner is negotiating to bring a first-line movie theater and a series of restaurants and new retail offerings to the 678,000-square-foot mall, which opened in 1973.

“The location of the DeSoto Square Mall within the local community it has served for many years makes our redevelopment purpose clear,” says Meyer Lebovits, DeSoto Owner's manager and owner, says in a statement.

Lebovits has retained Madison Properties, also of Brooklyn, to manage the property and oversee the planned improvements.

Formed in 2001 by Nathan Zieg, Madison in Florida also manages the Cross Country Plaza in West Palm Beach and the Embassy Crossing shopping center in New Port Richey, according to its website.

Elsewhere, Madison manages retail centers in North Carolina, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Missouri and Kentucky, according to its website.

The company also has mall management experience, with the West Side Mall, in Edwardsville, Pa.

Former owner Mason Asset Management, a New York firm that acquired the property for $24.6 million in October 2012, could not be reached for comment on the sale.

A Mason affiliate, Hakimi Properties, had listed the mall for sale beginning last summer.

DeSoto Square has struggled amid tenant departures in recent years, including anchor Macy's and more than a dozen other merchants and restaurants. A former Dillard's department store space has been occupied for more than two years by Hudson's Furniture Store.

Patrick Berman, a senior director with commercial real estate brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield, in Tampa, says the new owner should consider razing some of the retail space and replacing it with either rental apartments or a hotel.

“The mall has a great location, it's very central, and so it would be an ideal site to build garden-style apartments or perhaps a limited-service hotel,” he says. “There's lots of land and existing parking, and with apartments, they could create their own customer base.

“The enclosed mall model has been failing for several years now, because they are very expensive to maintain, so developers are turning instead to free-standing retail properties,” Berman adds. “They are much more efficient.”

Along the Gulf Coast, the Clearwater Mall, in Clearwater, and Seminole Mall, in Tampa, have undergone renovations in recent years and converted from enclosed centers to open air or power center properties.

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