Monday, December 12, 2011

Simon Wants to End Lease for Factory Merchants Outlet Mall

Reported by: Joy Robertson  - Ozark First

(Branson, MO) -- A once-popular shopping mall in Branson may close its doors, and that's news to some people who operate businesses there.

The City of Branson says the Factory Merchants Mall, also known as the "red roof" mall, contacted city leaders weeks ago indicating it was ready to make a change.

The city owns the property; the mall covers 31 acres, plus parking, but if you've been there recently you've likely noticed it's not really busy.

Now the mall's operator, Simon Malls, is telling the city is wants to concentrate its efforts elsewhere.

"Tanger is bigger I guess, and it has more things," says one shopper.

Once a thriving mall, shoppers say they don't frequent this one all that much.

"Maybe once a quarter," says another shopper.

Only 31 stores are open at Factor Merchants Branson. Many more are vacant. This means much less sales tax revenue for the city.

"Since 2004, the economic activity has decreased by over 50 percent," says Branson City Manager Dean Kruithof.

The city says in mid-November, Simon contacted it, indicating it was ready to turn this property back over to Branson.

"They really wanted, for their purposes, to be able to have a transfer of ownership by the end of this year," says Kruithof, and concentrate on the property it does own, the Shoppes at Branson Meadows.

But the city says Simon was -- and is -- a good neighbor and tenant.

"We hope they will be working with their tenants to move to the Meadows," adds Kruithof.

As for the 31-plus acres? The city says all options are open, and it's even talked about upping its sports marketing effort.

"Ball diamonds, things such as that to attract people here and to bring their children here to participate in competitive athletics then also stay in Branson for all of the amenities that we have," says Kruithof.

Nothing will happen without approval of the Branson Board of Aldermen; two meetings are scheduled for later in the month.

One business owner told KOLR10's Joy Robertson Thursday that he'd heard nothing from Simon about this. Instead, he heard it from a real estate agent yesterday who dropped in the store, so he says there was a communication breakdown somewhere.

The City was only getting $126,000 a year in lease from Simon, plus $180,000 or so a year in sales tax revenue.

It was a deal made back in 1986 when there was nothing there. The city says Simon has maintained the property very well and built the infrastructure, but that now it's time to do something else.  
There has even been talk of a possible management agreement for six months to allow businesses to relocate.

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