Pittsburgh Mills mall buyer expects new leases soon
After a tumultuous few years for the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer, including a foreclosure, the property has been purchased by Long-Island based Mason Asset Management.
Elliot Nassim, president of the company, confirmed Wednesday the company finalized the sale of the property on Tuesday.
He didn’t have an exact amount of the sale and property records weren’t yet available through Allegheny County, but he believed it to be around $12 million.
The purchase includes the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills, which is the enclosed mall building and related parking lots. The Village at Pittsburgh Mills, which is the outlying businesses and restaurants, was not part of deal.
“A lot of money was spent building it and putting the infrastructure in place, and we feel there’s opportunity to bring value through some re-leasing and redevelopment,” he said.
Nassim wouldn’t elaborate on the company’s plan for the mall, but said he hopes to announce new leases “very, very shortly.”
“We look forward to working with the township to come up with the best uses for the property, and we will do our best to implement the right strategy,” Nassim said.
He said the mall will remain open for business throughout the transition. The mall’s vacancy rate has varied, analysts have said, over the past several years. Once almost 90 percent full, the vacancy rate has topped 30 percent more recently.
The mall “sold” for $100 at a foreclosure auction in January 2017. In reality, mortgage holder Morgan Stanley Capital took possession of the property.
Mason Asset Management owns about 130 properties, including 40 other malls across the country.
Frazer Supervisor Lori Ziencik said she’s not familiar with the company and the supervisors haven’t met them, but she’s eager to do so.
She said she noticed in their portfolio they had worked with Rural King stores.
“We do believe that that would be successful here,” she said.
The mall’s assessed value has plummeted over the years from $190 million in 2006 down to $6.5 million in February, said Manus Clancy, senior managing director at New York City-based Trepp LLC, which provides market research for the real estate and banking industries.
Clancy wasn’t familiar with Mason Asset Management, but he said its purchase of the mall could be what is needed to fill empty storefronts and stay viable.
“We’ve seen guys come in and turn malls in to community colleges, call centers, office space,” he said.
Clancy said what’s happened to the Mills is somewhat unique because it’s a fairly young mall, built in 2005.
However, he said malls across the country are facing similar issues after retailers have filed for bankruptcy and closed stores.
“It tends to snowball,” Clancy said. “You lose one big anchor (store), a mall can usually muddle through. You lose two and nobody’s going to the mall anymore.”
Calls made to a representative of Jones Lang LaSalle, which manages operations at the mall, were not immediately returned.
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @emilybalser.