Owner of 9 Ohio malls files for bankruptcy

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Dayton Mall has attracted millions of visitors since it opened in 1970. It was the largest mall constructed between New York City and Chicago at the time.

The Columbus-based real estate investment trust that owns nine Ohio malls filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday.

Mall real estate investment trust Washington Prime Group Inc. said it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company owns more than 100 locations across the United States, including:

· Dayton Mall in Miami Twp.

· Great Lakes Mall in Mentor

· Indian Mound Mall in Heath

· Lima Mall in Lima

· Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek

· New Towne Mall in New Philadelphia

· Polaris Fashion Place in Columbus

· Southern Park Mall in Youngstown

The company said it has a restructuring support agreement with creditors that own about 73% of its outstanding secured corporate debt and 67% of its unsecured notes — and importantly, the company also has secured $100 million in a debtor-in-possession loan to fund daily operations during the Chapter 11 process.

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“Washington Prime Group’s guests, retailers and business partners can expect business as usual at all of the company’s retail town centers throughout the proceedings,” the company said in a release.

“The company’s financial restructuring will enable WPG to right size its balance sheet and position the company for success going forward,” said Lou Conforti, chief executive and director of Washington Prime Group. “During the financial restructuring, we will continue to work toward maximizing the value of our assets and our operating infrastructure. The company expects operations to continue in the ordinary course for the benefit of our guests, tenants, vendors, stakeholders and colleagues.”

The move is not a surprise. In a fourth quarter earnings report released in March, the business reported “there exists substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

At that time, the company said it had reached an agreement with creditors extending until the end of the month a deadline to pay a $23.2 million interest payment that had been initially due Feb. 16.

A victim not only of the pandemic but of an increasingly weakened position for retail brick-and-mortar nationwide, Washington Prime has seen mall anchors and regular-size tenants sliding into bankruptcy and shuttering their stores.

Mall owners CBL Properties and PREIT also filed for Chapter 11 last November, with those companies having previously warned they were in challenging positions because some of their largest tenants, including JC Penney, had started their own stints in bankruptcy.

Messages seeking comment were sent to representatives of WPG and the local malls Monday.

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