News

Councilman: Buy the mall

By PAT JENKINS

Editor

A Federal Way City Council member thinks the city should buy SeaTac Mall.

But mall officials doubt the city can be a serious suitor for the indoor shopping center, which is for sale by the family of its late owner.

Councilman Eric Faison said Monday he would propose at last night’s council meeting that the city investigate whether it could afford to buy the mall and then, if the answer was yes, that it begin negotiating with the owner, Newman Properties.

Faison said owning the mall is the city’s best opportunity to ensure its redevelopment and a long-term future as a strong centerpiece of commerce. Other prospective buyers could use the mall as a “cash cow” for other business interests and not put as much effort into improving it, he said.

The mall’s current ownership is “stagnant” and not interested in redevelopment, Faison claimed. “Now that it’s for sale, the city can have a role in the redevelopment process.”

Eric Mattison, marketing director for the mall, said city ownership of the mall isn’t a new idea, and it probably isn’t practical, either.

“I’ve heard talk about it in the community. (Faison) isn’t the first to bring it up. My feeling is that the city can’t afford the millions and millions of dollars to not only buy this place, but also the $20 million to $30 million it would cost for redevelopment,” Mattison said.

Mattison also said owning and managing a mall is normally beyond a city staff’s expertise. Municipal employees aren’t trained in retail management, he noted.

Faison said a management company probably would have to be hired by the city. That and other details, including how to finance a mall purchase, would be worked out after the city got farther into the process of possibly buying the mall, he said.

He said that under his proposal, the city wouldn’t own the mall forever. After redeveloping it, the city would put it up for sale, he said.

Faison, retired after working as an attorney in corporate law that involved company mergers and acquisitions, said city ownership of the mall would fit into the city’s goal of revitalizing its downtown and business district, including the mall.

Harry Newman was the original developer of the mall. He died six months ago. His family wants to sell the mall and others he developed because they don’t want to operate the properties, according to Mattison.

He said commercial interests are interested in acquiring SeaTac Mall, though he wouldn’t disclose details.

“There are buyers out there,” he said.

The mall has more than 100 stores and restaurants within its 740,000 square feet. Its major department store tenants are Sears, the Bon Marche, Mervyn’s and Gottschalks.

Editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at 925-5565 and editor@fedwaymirror.com

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