Marketplace Mall owner: Old parking contracts could 'delay or prevent' new tenant

April 15, 2019 07:36 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- There is some frustration over a plan to fix the second biggest mall in Monroe County. News10NBC was the first to tell you about this two weeks ago.

Wilmorite, the mall owner, wants you, the taxpayer, to spend money to help bring in a new tenant. 

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The new tenant would fill the old Macy's building which has been empty for two years. 

Step one is to get the county's industrial development agency to buy some of the mall's old parking lot contracts. Some of those parking spaces belong to J.C. Penney.

At a public hearing on Monday, J.C. Penney's lawyer asked how can we react to this if we don't know what's going in next door? 

"So, there's no information at all on what economic benefits or impacts of this proposed development," said Kathleen Bennett of Bond, Schoeneck and King.

We'll touch on the development for a moment and then get back to J.C. Penney's concerns. 

Wilmorite says they have a tenant that will transform the mall. A map handed out at the hearing Monday shows the scope of the project. It shows the parking lot areas Wilmorite wants purchased by the county's IDA called Imagine Monroe. 

One part includes the area as you enter off Hylan Drive. Another section is on the other side of Macy's as you head towards J.C Penney.

"Well, obviously, they're taking away more than 200 parking spaces from J.C. Penney. That's pretty significant," Bennett said.

After Bennett spoke, a mall executive rose to speak. 

"My name is Kevin Wilmot. I am vice president of finance at Wilmorite," Wilmot said as he walked to the front of the meeting room. "I don't have any comments today due to the fact that we're under a strict non-disclosure agreement."

Wilmot left a statement on the table saying the parking lot rights could "delay if not prevent the desired transformation of Marketplace Mall." 

It says the new tenant will have "positive fiscal impacts for every community in Monroe County." 

The statement also said "when Marketplace Mall catches a cold, the community catches a cold. We have pursued alternative forms of retail such as outlets with no success." 

Because of the non-disclosure contract, the statement said the company could not say who the prospective tenant is. 

"I think it's very unfair to potential condemnees to be subject to this type of non-disclosure agreement so that your notice is so vague that you can't tell anybody what's going to happen," Bennett said. 

News10NBC took that concern to Jeff Adair, executive director of Imagine Monroe. 

Jeff Adair: "Their concerns are well taken. That's why we have public hearings in order for us to find out what...their concerns are and we'll use the next few weeks and days to figure how to answer them and respond to them." 

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "If the public is being asked to make this purchase, should the public know what project is going in there?"

Adair: "Yes, absolutely. And that will come down as time goes on."

Brean: "The owner has talked about having a tenant. Should the public know who that tenant is?"

Adair: "I believe that would be a true and accurate statement and they will know as soon as we get anything into us for the IDA. We have nothing at this point."

Brean: "Why does it have to be Imagine Monroe that buys the property rights? Why can't it be the owner?"

Adair: "Because we have PILOTS and they all need to be taken care of."

Brean: "So the mall owner couldn't just go ahead and buy these easements?"

Adair: "No, because of the PILOTS and all that. We have a vested interest in that."

Last summer, the Democrat and Chronicle reported the UR Medicine Orthopedics Center was interested in building at the mall. UR Medicine told News10NBC the orthopedics center is expanding but wouldn't pinpoint the mall as an expansion location. 

Imagine Monroe says it will have a decision on whether or not it buys out the old parkling lot contracts through eminent domain in 90 days. 

That's around July 4. 


Berkeley Brean

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