New owners plan changes at Metropolis mall

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A joint venture involving a Memphis-based developer has acquired the Metropolis shopping center in Plainfield and plans to invest millions in the troubled property as part of a new marketing effort that might include a name change.

Affiliates of Poag Shopping Centers LLC and Blue Vista Capital Management LLC in Chicago bought the 68-acre outdoor mall for an undisclosed price late last month and have yet to formally announce the acquisition.

They acquired Metropolis from lenders that took possession after the property fell into court-appointed receivership in 2008.

Two Israel-based firms put Metropolis under contract in 2010 and planned to pay $52 million for the property, but they failed to complete the acquisition, Poag Shopping CentersCEO Josh Poag said.

Metropolis is 83-percent occupied. Major tenants include JC Penney, Old Navy, Victoria’s Secret and Dick's Sporting Goods.

“A lot of tenants have hung in there over the years,” Poag said. “But there’s only so much CBRE could do as a receiver, because lenders are loath to put any additional capital into a project.”

Former Indianapolis-based development firm Premier Properties USA Inc. invested $160 million to develop the 600,200-square-foot center, which opened in October 2005.

Premier’s founder, Christopher P. White, however, was sentenced in November 2009 to one year of home detention and three years of probation in connection with a $500,000 bad check he wrote as he tried to save his real estate development firm.

Poag Shopping Centers plans to spend about $3 million to update the center, lease it closer to capacity and begin a marketing push that could become a rebranding effort. Poag said shoppers should begin seeing changes later this year.

“It’s not like it’s an old project, but we’re going to work on softening it from a futuristic look to more of a family-friendly look,” he said. “The lighting is what you might find in tomorrow land.”

Poag bought enough of the vacant land at the south end of the property to possibly add another anchor.

Metropolis is the company’s first property in Indiana. Founded in 1984, Poag Shopping Centers owns 16 lifestyle centers throughout the country.

Though the center has struggled in comparison to some of the Indianapolis-area's newer malls, such as Clay Terrace or Hamilton Town Center, Steve Delaney, a broker at Sitehawk Retail Real Estate, thinks it can rebound.

“It’s really had no direction or anyone with an overall leasing plan,” he said. “If the right developer gets in and they purchased it at the right price, they should be able to put together a successful leasing plan for the center.”


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