What’s the sell­ing price?

The Buffalo News - - SALE OF THE BOULEVARD MALL -

LNR Part­ners is sell­ing a 64-acre prop­erty that cov­ers most of the land and build­ings on the east side of Ni­a­gara Falls Boule­vard be­tween Maple Road and Almeda Av­enue.

It in­cludes 687,000 square feet of rentable re­tail space that Ten-X states is 78 per­cent leased.

The sale in­cludes the build­ings that house Buy Buy Baby, Michaels and Chili’s. It does not in­clude the J.C. Pen­ney in the mall, owned by that cor­po­ra­tion; the for­mer Macy’s men’s store, owned by Ben­der­son De­vel­op­ment Co.; and a for­mer LA Fit­ness out­let, also owned by Ben­der­son.

Sep­a­rately, Ten-X is auc­tion­ing off the ad­join­ing prop­erty at 675 Al­berta, also owned by LNR Part­ners, where Weg­mans has a ground lease.

The start­ing bid for the auc­tion is $6 mil­lion. But the Ten-X site doesn’t say whether that’s the re­serve price, and it’s not clear whether LNR Part­ners would ac­cept that price for the mall. (The start­ing bid for the Weg­mans par­cel is $3 mil­lion, for point of ref­er­ence.)

Back in 2003, when the re­tail cli­mate was vastly dif­fer­ent, the McKin­ley Mall sold for $48.6 mil­lion. Uni­land De­vel­op­ment Co. one year ago paid $15.4 mil­lion to be­come co-owner of the East­ern Hills Mall.

Why buy a mall?

Amherst of­fi­cials say the prop­erty is at­trac­tive be­cause of its size, its lo­ca­tion on heav­ily trav­eled Ni­a­gara Falls Boule­vard and be­tween the two Uni­ver­sity at Buf­falo cam­puses, the com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial den­sity of the area that sur­rounds the mall and its in­clu­sion along the pro­jected path of an ex­panded Metro Rail.

“You say Boule­vard Mall, peo­ple know where it is,” Amherst Plan­ning Di­rec­tor Dan Howard said. “There’s an iden­tity.”

A key rea­son that de­vel­op­ers will want to bid on the prop­erty now is its in­clu­sion in the fed­eral op­por­tu­nity zone pro­gram, said A.J. Baynes, CEO of the Amherst Cham­ber of Com­merce.

What’s an op­por­tu­nity zone?

The pro­gram sets up tar­geted zones in high-poverty cen­sus tracts where in­vestors and cor­po­ra­tions can de­fer taxes they owe on cap­i­tal gains.

They can rein­vest those gains, whether on their own or through pooled funds, into a project in an op­por­tu­nity zone and pay a lower tax rate on the money they in­vested. If they hold on to the in­vest­ment for 10 years, they don’t owe taxes on any of the gains.

Who’s go­ing to bid?

Nick Si­na­tra of Si­na­tra & Co. Real Es­tate is the only lo­cal de­vel­oper who has ex­pressed in­ter­est pub­licly.

Ben­der­son is an­other ob­vi­ous pos­si­bil­ity, given the com­pany’s ex­ten­sive hold­ings within the mall foot­print and far­ther north to its Boule­vard Con­sumer Square re­tail com­plex and of­fice park on Ridge Lea Road. A Ben­der­son ex­ec­u­tive did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Ciminelli Real Es­tate Corp. and Men­sch Cap­i­tal Part­ners, which is work­ing to re­de­velop the for­mer Westwood Coun­try Club site in Amherst, both said they don’t plan to bid.

“I think there’s a lot of peo­ple who are keep­ing their cards close to their vest,” said Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor David Min­goia of the Amherst In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Agency. “I ac­tu­ally would be sur­prised if it didn’t sell.”

When will we find out?

It’s not clear if or when HFF or LNR Part­ners would an­nounce they have ac­cepted an of­fer. An HFF spokes­woman said she couldn’t com­ment on the sale.

Once the pur­chase closes, the deed would be filed with the Erie County

Think of the life­style cen­ter planned for the East­ern Hills Mall in Clarence as a guide, although Amherst of­fi­cials say de­vel­op­ment at the Boule­vard Mall site could be denser and taller.

Uni­land and part­ner Moun­tain De­vel­op­ment Corp. es­ti­mate they will spend $200 mil­lion to $300 mil­lion over three to 10 years to trans­form that site into an open-air, walk­a­ble com­mu­nity an­chored by hous­ing and re­tail, restau­rants and com­mu­nity at­trac­tions.

Lo­cal plan­ners point to Bel­mar, in Lake­wood, Colo., and Crocker Park in Westlake, Ohio, as ex­am­ples of thriv­ing town cen­ters.

What’s the time­line?

Lit­tle should change at the Boule­vard Mall any­time soon as stores con­tinue to op­er­ate un­der ex­ist­ing leases. Any new work is likely to take place on the outer por­tion of the prop­erty be­fore mov­ing to the cen­ter.

Full re­use is years away, but any buyer that wants to earn the max­i­mum op­por­tu­nity zone tax ben­e­fits must fol­low an ag­gres­sive time­line. The new owner needs to file a de­vel­op­ment plan to the IRS by the end of the year, and start con­struc­tion soon af­ter.

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