The new owner of Louis Joliet Mall has been buying malls around the country for the past 10 years including several in Chicago and its suburbs.
Namdar Realty Group acquired the Joliet mall for $31.4 million in June, according to records at the Will County Recorder of Deeds. The company based in Great Neck, New York, acquired Louis Joliet Mall in an internet auction sale, a reflection of the challenges facing indoor shopping malls.
But Namdar has been buying. According to its website, the company owns 63 shopping malls, including four in the Chicago area that suffer from high vacancy rates: Ford City in Chicago, River Oaks in Calumet City, Northfield Square in Bourbonnais and Stratford Square in Bloomingdale.
In Bloomingdale, village officials unhappy with Namdar’s ownership of Stratford Square have filed a condemnation lawsuit in an attempt to take it over.
“The mall was an economic engine for our community from its very beginning, but vacancies have continued to climb and it no longer represents an attractive or financially viable asset to the community” the village said in a statement posted on its website last year as it laid out concept plans for redevelopment of the Stratford Square site.
Local officials often point to high occupancy inside the mall, saying Louis Joliet Mall is in good shape compared with other indoor shopping centers.
The core area of the mall, which is what Namdar bought, is 92% occupied, according to the property specifications posted in the online auction sale. There are 11 vacant spots, not including the anchor stores which are owned separately.
While details on the number of bidders in June were not disclosed, there was competition in the two-day auction to buy the Joliet mall. Bidding started at $5 million, and there were five bids pushing the price to $15 million on the first day. The final price of $31.4 million indicates the competition continued on the second day.
Louis Joliet Mall is in a central business district for the city and is surrounded by retail strip centers and restaurants.
That also could be said for Namdar-owned Northfield Square Mall in Bourbonnais, which is largely empty except for local businesses and a handful of brand-name retailers inside the mall, while big-box stores, restaurants and hotels thrive outside of it.
Namdar management did not respond to a request for comments about the company’s plans for Louis Joliet Mall.
Local officials are trying to get a handle on the new owner.
Joliet City Council member Larry Hug, who chairs the council’s Economic Development Committee, said he’s been told by city staff they have not yet made contact with Namdar but will try to do so.
Doug Pryor, president and CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development, said his organization also has not had contact with Namdar.
Namdar’s website provides a brief description of the company that emphasizes its growth since starting in 1999 with the acquisition of a single storefront in Long Island, New York.
“It has since thrived to become one of the fastest growing private real estate investment firms in the country,” according to the website. “It is continuing to grow at an unprecedented rate, averaging over 20 acquisitions annually over the last four years, consisting primarily of large retail malls, shopping centers, office and medical buildings.”
In addition to its shopping malls, Namdar owns 48 open-air shopping centers.