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City of Columbus to takeover City Center Mall for $2.88M

In October City Center Mall will have new owners - the City of Columbus. Mayor Michael Coleman announced Thursday plans to take control of the failing mall and the land next to it.

In its heyday City Center Mall saw 45,000 shoppers a day and was at 95 percent capacity. That was in 1990. Today, it is 75 percent vacant.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman called the mall the elephant in the room. Coleman filed suit in July against the mall's owners, TL Columbus, for failing to pay rent. He said the city and TL Columbus have now reached an agreement to turn over the mall the its original city-backed developer Capitol South.

"First they will turn over the control of the mall itself, City Center, to Capitol South as of October 31, 2007. Second, in addition to the mall, the city will acquire the property adjacent to City Center known as the Centrum site," Coleman said.

The city is getting the mall and the vacant lot for $2.8 million. Capitol South is using rent money it has paid to the city to make the purchase of the mall and the vacant lot.

Capitol South is working with Nationwide Realty Investors, the group which developed the Arena District, to come up with a redevelopment plan for the mall. Nationwide Realty Investors have never redeveloped a mall before. The group's president Brian Ellis said the challenge will be finding a different use for the shopping center.

"We have a structural system that we have to adapt to an alternate use and that's a challenge. And we don't, I think it's unlikely, as I look at this, and we have six months to go, I thinks it's unlikely that we would recommend tearing the mall down," Ellis said.

One thing Ellis said the mall has going for it is its parking. And he said that will be used to its advantage.

"It has significant parking underneath it. And the City Center garage is one of the largest in the state of Ohio," Ellis said.

As far as a vision, Coleman said he has many ideas for the use of the mall.

"I do think that there will be an opportunity for retail in the mall. I do think there will be an opportunity for office space in the mall. But one thing it will not be, it will not be what it was, and it will not be what it is. It will not be vacant, and it will not be a one million plus square foot retail operation. It'll be a mix use operation of some sort," Coleman said.

Coleman was asked who will pay for the reconstruction of the mall. He said at this point he's unsure.

"We're going to hold those questions off until we have to deal with them. There, my expectation, though, there is going to be a need to do some physical changes. We just don't know what they are. And right now we don't know who pays for it," Coleman said.

Columbus City Council still has to sign off on the deal.