Two years after the national recession came to an end, owners of some area shopping malls still do not appear to be out of the woods.
Take Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg.
Securities analysts from Morningstar and Fitch reported last week that a Morgan Stanley loan financing the mall had been transferred to a special servicer and that the mall’s owners, including Simon Property Group, had been unable to refinance, though negotiations are continuing.
Morningstar’s Frank A. Innaurato said that the loan still had an outstanding balance of $138.7 million. The ownership group holds an option to extend the loan, he said, but had indicated to special servicer C-III Capital Group that it would decline to use it.
“The loan matured on July 8, 2011, and the special servicer reports the borrower has indicated that it would not exercise the extension option,” Innaurato said in an e-mail.
Simon Property Group, the Indianapolis-based real estate investment trust, owns a 25 percent stake and manages the two-story, 1 million-square-foot mall, one of 392 properties it owns worldwide.
Les Morris, director of corporate public relations for Simon Property, confirmed the company’s management and minority-ownership of the mall. He declined to comment on the loan or the mall’s future. Calls to majority owner General Motors Asset Management, managers of the automaker’s pension plan, were not returned. A spokesperson for C-III also declined comment.
Located off of Interstate 270 on Russell Avenue, Lakeforest was built in 1978. Among its tenants are more than 100 shops and restaurants including Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, the Children’s Place and American Eagle Outfitters.
Lakeforest’s owners have not had to scramble to find replacement tenants for any of the largest fatalities of the recession, such as Borders or Circuit City. But its four largest stores, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Sears and Lord & Taylor, own their own space and thus do not pay rent. In that, Lakeforest resembles another local center, Laurel Mall, whose anchors also own their own space. Laurel Mall’s owners struggled recently with cash flow problems.
Locally, however, even owners of well-located properties such as the Shops at Georgetown Park and Springfield Mall have run into trouble by borrowing heavily before the financial crisis arrived. The country’s second largest owner of malls, General Growth, went into and out of bankruptcy and has been wooing Wal-Mart, chain grocers and big box retailers to shore up some of its properties, much as was done with Manassas Mall.