New Oak Park Mall deal reached

Published 2:10 pm Saturday, October 17, 2015

Oak Park Mall. - Tribune file photo

Oak Park Mall. – Tribune file photo

Austin Port Authority expected to vote on $2.9M agreement on Monday

By Jason Schoonover, Austin Daily Herald

AUSTIN — Christmas may have come early for the Austin Port Authority and Hy-Vee.

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Oak Park Mall ownership, Hy-Vee and all existing parties have approved the terms of a $2.9 million deal for the Austin Port Authority to acquire Oak Park Mall and then turn it over to Hy-Vee to build a new 60,000- to 90,000-square-foot grocery store in place of the mall.

“The staff and all the people who have worked on this project, are pleased that this project has reached the point where it can come up for a final vote,” Craig Byram, the port authority’s attorney, wrote in an email to the Herald.

The port authority still needs to approve the project, and it’s expected to vote at a 7:30 a.m. meeting Monday morning in the City Council Chambers in City Hall. The Austin City Council will also have to approve certain aspects of a tax increment finance district for the property.

While Byram noted a deal this complex could hit a snag, things appear primed to move ahead.

“The staff believes that the project is ready to go forward,” Byram wrote in an email. “All existing parties have approved the terms and are looking forward to the project moving forward if it is approved.”

If approved, the deal is scheduled to close sometime the week of Nov. 9-12.

Under the proposed agreement, the port authority would acquire the property and almost immediately pass it over to Hy-Vee.

“We, therefore will only hold the property for under one minute,” Austin Finance Director Tom Dankert wrote in a letter to the port authority released Friday.

Hy-Vee will acquire the main parcel of the mall, and the port authority will keep the lot known as the Farmer’s Market lot for future development.

Once the new Hy-Vee is completed, the existing grocery store at 1001 18th Ave. NW will be demolished and turned over to the port authority for future redevelopment.

As part of the closing, the port authority will pay all delinquent taxes and assessments — which total about $446,387, according to county records — and it will pay $92,000 owed to Austin Utilities for unpaid utility bills.

The businesses at the mall site will not be connected. Younkers will have its own stand-alone store, and CineMagic Theater all the way up to Shopko will be its own separate building.

Hy-Vee’s new store is expected to be constructed between the theater and Younkers.


What happened with the mall?

The deal closes a tumultuous year for the property.

The city entered into a purchase agreement with Oak Park Ltd. Partnership — the company formed by Chicago-based Martin Graff of M H Graff & Associates Inc. and Martin Goldman of M J Goldman & Co. Ltd. — last October to redevelop the mall site. Under the previous plan, the city would lead a $3 million demolition project necessary for a 60,000- to 90,000-square-foot grocery store.

The mall property essentially closed at the end of 2014, aside from a few businesses like Cinemagic 7, Any Time Fitness and a few others. Most other businesses moved to new locations.

Yet ongoing negotiations proved difficult. The city not only had to work with the Oak Park Mall owners, but attorneys from Younkers, Shopko and Cinemagic 7 to get a demolition project off the ground so the property could be handed over to Hy-Vee. In February, the city was forced to drop its purchase agreement after the 90-day agreement period expired.

Attorneys with The Bon-Ton Stores, the parent company of Younkers, approved and sent out a final draft of an agreement in April for the city to allow the project to move forward.

That agreement included a $250,000 incentive for Younkers to remodel, as well as 18 months of free rent. But the company changed its draft a week later after their attorneys drew up an additional 22 stipulations.

That deadlock effectively killed the deal, according to city officials. A Bon-Ton spokesperson said the company had mostly agreed to the deal’s financial terms but wanted additional stipulations to protect its property, such as agreements on common space and maintenance concerns.

The city couldn’t work out an agreement in time, and the purchase agreement was dropped.

Despite that, negotiations continued privately between Hy-Vee and the other companies, which have progressed far enough to bring the city back into the development deal, pending a few minor changes the city hopes to negotiate into their agreement.

Then in August, Hy-Vee and city of Austin officials both confirmed they were again working on a deal regarding the property.