City of Middletown to purchase Towne Mall for $10 million

The 32 acres of land represents ‘a critical gateway to the city.’

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The city of Middletown will purchase the Towne Mall on the city’s East End for $10 million with an eye on having control of the redevelopment of the land leaders called “a critical gateway to the city.”

Unanimous action was taken by city council Tuesday afternoon during a special meeting authorizing City Manager Paul Lolli to accept a sale agreement for the purchase of the four parcels that constitute the mall built in the 1970s. The parcels total a little more than 32 acres of land.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Councilman Paul Horn was absent.

Lolli said, “The city will work to redevelop the property in the near future.”

The city began negotiation with the owners of the Towne Mall approximately two years ago to purchase the land for $16 million with the plan to locate Renaissance Pointe project at that location, according to Lolli.

Further evaluation of the cost of infrastructure to put the project at that location prompted the determination the cost would be “just too high,” Lolli said.

Renaissance Pointe — a planned 3,000-seat, multi-purpose event center, retail and office space, hotels, restaurants and a variety of residential offerings — is under construction not far from the current Towne Mall on 50-plus acres along Interstate 75 at Ohio 122 and Union Road.

Towne Mall owners did put the property up for sale after the city backed out, but could not come to terms on an agreement, according to the city manager.

In the past year the city has continued discussions with owners, listed as Towne Mall Galleria LLC and God’s Love is Eternal LLC on the ordinance, for the purchase.

“Within the last two to three months, we had an organization represent us and then came to the agreement of the $10 million purchase price,” Lolli said.

Assistant City Manager Nathan Cahall said funding for the purchase would essentially be a “70/30 split,” with $3 million in cash from the general fund and the other $7 million borrowed with the issuance of bond anticipation notes.

The lease revenues, including Planet Fitness, will come close to servicing the annual interest cost.

“One of our primary reasons for pursuing the purchase of the Towne Mall is to gain control of what goes there,” Lolli said.

There was some concern about that after the city backed out of the earlier sale.

Lolli said the groundbreaking at Renaissance Pointe last week will make the Towne Mall property more lucrative in the future and “better suited for us to come up with some type of a mixed use development possibly.”

The city will work with developers and other groups to determine a plan for the property.

After the ordinance passed, Lolli said, “Congratulations Middletown.”

Mayor Elizabeth Slamka said, “I agree. That is very exciting.”

Councilmen Steve West II and Zack Ferrell said they envision the project as a teardown of the mall, possibly using state brownfield remediation grant money, to have the land shovel ready for a developer.

“A teardown will make it shovel ready. That way a developer can come in and put something preferable there that would generate money for the city, whether it be mixed-use or something like that,” West said. “The reason why these malls sit vacant forever and they can’t get anybody to purchase them is the cost of demolition is through the roof. There is also an issue with old Sears service center (requiring more cleanup). So when you start combining those things, it wouldn’t make much sense for a developer to purchase” (as is).

The Towne Mall, like many other across the nation, has suffered in recent years with loss of tenants and the shift in shopping trends.

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