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Janesville Mall on the market

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Neil Johnson
Friday, November 17, 2017

JANESVILLE—The Janesville Mall is on the market, and there are signs sale of the 600,000-square-foot shopping mall could be pending.

The Gazette obtained a flier from a Texas firm that invited local stakeholders to a “cocktail reception” Wednesday at the Janesville Country Club.

The invitation indicates the firm would be on hand to discuss “the acquisition of the Janesville Mall and strategies to manage risk-adjusted returns in the shopping center sector.”

The flier says another such reception is planned in Janesville next week.

It's not clear what the firm's role might be in the sale of the mall or whether the company has identified itself as a buyer of the mall.

An official with the company told The Gazette in an email that he could neither confirm nor deny whether the company intends to buy the mall.

An online real estate listing dated Sept. 18, 2017, shows the mall listed for sale by California-based broker Faris Lee Investments for an undisclosed price.

Faris Lee in the listing said it and Milwaukee firm Commercial Property Associates were “exclusively” representing the sale of the Janesville Mall, 2500 Milton Ave.

It's not clear how long the mall has been on the market or if its sale is imminent.

A Faris Lee broker on the listing did not return a call from The Gazette on Wednesday.

The Mall's owner, Chattanooga, Tenn., company CBL & Associates Properties, did not return a call for comment. CBL has owned the Janesville Mall since 1998, according to local tax records.

The Janesville Mall's management office did not return calls seeking comment.

CBL owns about 124 mall properties, including the Janesville Mall and the East Towne and West Towne malls in Madison.

It's not clear if other area CBL properties are on the market, but CBL in recent years has been unloading some of its mall properties across the United States.

Most recently, CBL in May 2017 announced it had sold two mall properties: College Square in Morristown, Tenn., and Foothills Mall in Maryville, Tenn., for $53.5 million in cash, according to a company news release.

CBL said it used proceeds from those sales to pay off debt.

The Tennessee sales were part of a plan formed by CBL in 2014 to sell off about 20 of the 150 malls it owns. The plan involved a multiyear selloff of some of its malls, coupled with investments in better performing properties.

The company at the time called the plan a “portfolio transformation strategy” involving “targeted divestitures” of “stable, but lower-growth malls, and non-core properties,” along with investments in the company's “higher growth assets.”

It's not clear if the Janesville Mall was earlier considered to be a lower-tier performer, but CBL said in a May 2017 news release that sale of the two Tennessee mall properties this year brought to a close the company's earlier “divestment strategy.”

CBL now says it owns, partly owns or manages 124 properties.

In a third-quarter financial disclosure, CBL announced that as of Sept. 30, 2017, its total portfolio of malls had an average vacancy rate of 8.4 percent. That's up from a 7.4 percent vacancy rate during the same period in 2016.

Retail industry analyst CoStar Group considers any retail shopping malls with less than a 10 percent vacancy rate to be “healthy." The group said that as of 2015, about 80 percent of shopping malls in the United States had vacancy rates higher than 10 percent.

According to Faris Lee's listing, the Janesville Mall in recent months had a vacancy rate of about 12 percent.

Faris Lee's listing casts Janesville as a community with a rebounding economy, and it cites an increased demand for housing in Janesville, along with nascent plans for redevelopment of the former General Motors assembly plant here and a number of new retail stores locating on the city's north side recently as indicators of a community with brightening economic prospects.

The Janesville Mall within the last two years got a structural facelift, with CBL investing in major interior and exterior renovations, including in the mall's interior concourse and other areas.

The mall also filled some empty anchor space when it landed Dick's Sporting Goods and Ulta Beauty in 2015 to fill about 55,000 square feet of floor space that JC Penney had vacated in 2014. About half of the former JC Penney space remains vacant.



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