Finkbeiner says parties are near deal on ‘upscale’ mall

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

City officials are “very, very close” to an agreement with developers that would ensure a new mall in Maumee is “upscale,” Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said yesterday.

“Our vision for the mall and their vision for a mall are getting very close,” he said.

Mr. Finkbeiner and members of the city council met yesterday with John Bergstrom, the vice president of Chicago-based General Growth Properties, the company that will be developing a mall on Toledo-owned land west of I-475 and north of U.S. 24.

For weeks, Mr. Finkbeiner has argued that for the development deal to go forward, General Growth must promise that any mall built on the land would be upscale, featuring the sorts of upper-crust department stores Toledoans drive to metro Detroit for now.

That assurance, officials believed, would prevent the suburban mall from pulling already established businesses away from Toledo.

Officials say that upscale promise was part of the city’s original 1995 deal with The Isaacs Group, the Bryan firm buying the land to sell to General Growth. But the contract the city signed with the Isaac Group includes no guarantees of upscale retail.

That put the city in a weak bargaining position with devel opers, forcing Toledo to rely on good-faith tactics to convince General Growth to go upscale. Without contract language to support its argument, the city doesn’t have a strong legal case, officials admit.

“[The city’s law department is] saying shake hands, rub backs, and try to get this without a legal fight,” Economic Development Commissioner Barry Broome said.

Mr. Finkbeiner said that has been successful. Without divulging details, he said the city has reached a tentative agreement that would ensure the mall is upscale. The deal must still be approved by General Growth executives in Chicago, the mayor said.

Mr. Bergstrom said the choice of what stores will anchor the mall won’t be made until late this year, at the earliest. But he said General Growth has received strong interest from six or seven department stores, and at least three were on a list of “upscale” stores the mayor said were his choices for the mall.

That list included Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Dillards, Filene’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ikea, Kauffman’s, Macy’s, Lazarus, and Parisienne.

Mr. Broome said the city has gotten General Growth to commit to at least two upscale anchors in the mall. Sears and J.C. Penney are two other options, he said.

Mr. Bergstrom would not confirm the two upscale anchor estimate, but did say the mall would feature a “blend” of upscale and moderately priced stores.

Mr. Broome estimated the mall would add 2,000 permanent jobs and 1,000 construction jobs for the structure’s building. Mr. Bergstrom said most malls the size of the proposed Maumee mall create 1,500 permanent jobs, many of them part-time.

Though the developer is under no legal obligation to negotiate with the city, Mr. Bergstrom said it is important to keep both parties happy with the deal.