Israeli Investor Saves Atlanta Mall from Foreclosure

Atlanta’s 45-year-old Greenbriar Mall is planning a renovation after an Israeli developer stepped in to purchase a majority interest in the mall as it faced foreclosure just a few months ago.

The developer purchased a majority interest in the 807,697-sq.ft. mall for an undisclosed sum. Seller Hendon Properties, LLC, retains a minority ownership and O’Leary Partners Inc., operators of Underground Atlanta, continues to manage the property. Charlie Hendon, president of Hendon Properties, did not reveal the amount of his new partner’s investment or the percentage of ownership. However, the mall’s asking price in December 2009 was $44 million.

Although most retailers within the mall continue to thrive, the deal was struck to save the property from a possible foreclosure, says Margaret Caldwell, managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle in Atlanta, which brokered the deal.

“We were dealing with a group that had purchased the note from Wachovia Securities,” Caldwell explained. “It was not a securitized note, but we were at the eleventh hour trying to find a buyer who could bring in the capital quickly so we could save the property from foreclosure and purchase the note back at a discount.”

The mall’s sale shows that foreign investors are interested in U.S. retail assets, says Caldwell. Despite its difficulties, the mall still provides “stable in-place income, combined with numerous opportunities for value-add and repositioning, making it an extremely attractive investment opportunity,” adds Caldwell. “That mall has had tremendous success in this economy, where they have been able to lease off a lot of the vacant space.”

The mall sits on 94.5 acres and is 94.3% occupied, despite losing a significant amount of foot traffic when the AMC-owned Magic Johnson 12-plex theatre closed in October 2009. Revolution Cinemas has signed an agreement to take over the empty theatre space.

Meanwhile, a university has agreed to take over an empty Cub Foods “box” behind the mall. “I think the university, obviously, will bring a lot of foot traffic to the property,” says Caldwell.

Still, Atlanta fundamentals remain weak, according to real estate services and investment firm Grubb & Ellis. The retail vacancy rate rose from 9.4% in the first quarter of 2009 to 10.5% in the first quarter of this year.

Greenbriar’s owners are optimistic that its location, near a major highway and across the street from the studio of actor and producer Tyler Perry, will help the property retain its appeal, says Hendon.

Renovation plans include new lighting, décor, skylights, and more. “The enhancements will be a good investment,” says Hendon.

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