News

New owner has plans for mall

By PAT JENKINS

Editor

The for-sale sign went down Wednesday at SeaTac Mall as a California company announced it has purchased and plans to redevelop Federal Way’s largest shopping center.

Steadfast Commercial Properties, part of a Newport Beach, Calif-based company that develops and manages real estate in the United States and Mexico, didn’t disclose terms of its latest acquisition.

Opened in 1975 by Newman Properties, another California company, the mall had been for sale since shortly after original owner and developer Harry Newman died in October 2001. His heirs weren’t interested in keeping it.

Before Steadfast closed its deal this week, at least one other commercial developer and property manager had expressed interest last year in buying the mall. Steadfast became a leading suitor when it put money down and went past initial purchase procedures, including discussions with city officials about redevelopment of the 63-acre, 100-store mall.

The mall has never undergone a complete renovation. That apparently will change under Steadfast’s ownership.

Details are still being worked out, but Gary Martindale, the mall’s general manager, said Steadfast is planning “multiple phases of redevelopment” that will take up to three years to finish and will “give the community the kind of shopping center it deserves.”

The first work, possibly interior and exterior, is scheduled to start this spring. Martindale said the work “will be more extensive than new floor-covering and a new coat of paint.”

One mall official last year estimated that total redevelopment could cost $20 million to $30 million.

Jim Yoder, vice president of Steadfast Commercial Properties, said the city’s Community Development Department has provided “a lot of great ideas” and “helped us greatly as we prepared to complete our acquisition. We look forward to a fruitful relationship.”

Last July, City Councilman Eric Faison urged the city to consider buying the mall in order to play a major role in its redevelopment as a hub of downtown. Other council members largely rejected the notion.

Mall property also has been discussed as a possible site for a new city hall or some combination of municipal facilities. Martindale said no decisions have been made.

A similar concept was carried out in Lakewood, where that city’s major shopping mall, Lakewood Towne Center, was redeveloped last year in conjunction with the opening the year before of a new city hall. A different developer than Steadfast was involved in that project.

Faison wouldn’t comment on whether the mall and city might become co-developers but said Steadfast officials “share our vision of a mixed-use, high-density” redevelopment of downtown.

Doug Smith, interim director of the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, said it’s “exciting” to have a new owner pumping new blood into the mall and spurring downtown improvements.

Smith, a former interim general manager of the mall, said raised ceilings and skylights would brighten the interior. Updated entrances would also enhance the mall’s image, and an “entertainment component” with emphasis on children might be in the works, considering the popularity of such facilities at other malls, he said.

Steadfast Commercial Properties operates 2 million square feet of commercial developments in western states and has sold 7.8 million square feet of land since 1996.

SeaTac Mall, the only indoor mall owned by Steadfast and the company’s first property in Washington, covers 740,000 square feet. Its largest stores are Sears, Bon Marche, Gottschalks and Mervyn’s.

Steadfast Properties and Development, as the main operating company is known, has 300 employees and is involved with apartment complexes, retail shopping centers, industrial and office property, senior housing and resorts. Resorts are located in the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America.

SeaTac Mall is Steadfast’s second major acquisition in the last three months. In December, the company announced it bought a 220-unit apartment community in Pomona, Calif. for $13 million.

According to its Web site, Steadfast supports several non-profit foundations that offer social services to children and families in communities where Steadfast owns developments.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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