Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Branson takes over Factory Merchants Outlets

Branson aldermen unanimously gave final approval during a special meeting Thursday to take over ownership of Factory Merchants Branson, the 76 Country Boulevard shopping center known by many people as the Red Roof Mall.

City Administrator Dean Kruithof said the city will close  on the transfer Jan. 5, 2012. According to the agreement, the city will receive $300,000 from Simon Property Group Inc., and Simon will continue to manage the mall for the next six months.

“I think our key issue right now is working with Simon to get as many of those stores relocated as we can,” Kruithof said following Thursday’s meeting. “We already are hearing a number of them are looking for new locations in Branson and we’ll start working with Simon with the hand-off, from their ownership to us in the six-month period of time.”

According to Economic Development Director Garrett Anderson, of the 34 businesses, seven planned to vacate the property by the end of the 2011.

“Only one store is confirmed to be closing this year and not relocating to another part of Branson,”
Anderson said. “Nine of the 34 have committed to relocating in Branson.”

Seventeen of the stores at Factory Merchants Branson have duplicate locations in the city.
Simon’s current lease for the 31 acres of city-owned land was not set to expire until 2021. According to Kruithof, the $300,000 will be segregated from the city’s general fund and be used to maintain the property.

“I’ve estimated $15,000-$20,000 to be able maintain this and the $300,000 would go toward that purpose,” Kruithof said during a special meeting earlier in the week when aldermen approved the bill on first reading. “In essence, what this will do is ensure that the cost of taking on this mall does not compete with our basic services.”

Kruithof described the mall as fading. In the past seven years, the mall has seen a 52-percent decrease in sales.

“There are some problems that are opportunities,” said Alderman Rick Todd. “This is one of those problems. We have a mall that was very successful over a period of years going in a slow decline. It wasn’t working and they needed to do something.”

Todd said hopefully, many of the businesses will relocated and not have a big impact on the area’s unemployment.

“The opportunity will depend on what we can do with it in the coming years,” Todd said.
Kruithof said already city leaders have been hearing ideas for the property’s future.

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