The Aiken Mall may bounce back and become financially stronger in the wake of foreclosure proceedings, possibly helping nearby businesses and retailers, according to Vic Mill, CEO of Blanchard and Calhoun, a regional commercial realtor.
Mill said once properties such as Aiken Mall are foreclosed and subsequently resold, there can be a positive impact for nearby stores as well as the community.
“A new owner is generally able to operate off a smaller investment given that the property is normally sold at a lower price and possibly even less than the outstanding loan amount,” he said.
He added that if a new owner can make improvements to the property and potentially re-lease it to new tenants at a lower rate, it can generate new activity around the mall.
Aiken Mall Acquisition LLC, which owns about 35 acres at Aiken Mall, is listed as owing approximately $28.5 million to U.S. Bank, according to Aiken County Clerk of Court records.
Nicole Garrison-Sprenger, a representative of U.S. Bank, said the bank is not technically the lender of the loan and merely serves as a trustee for a pool of mortgages known as a trust. C-III Asset Management is the “servicer of the property” and is responsible for all actions on the property, including foreclosure, according to Garrison-Sprenger.
David Jameson, president of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, said the chances of the mall closing are “slight.”
“It's a good chance the mall will just be bought by someone else, and maybe new management might bring new life to the mall,” he said. “The new management may have new contacts, new angles on how to sell or market the mall, and it might actually see an upturn.”
Jameson said whether the mall closes or remains open wouldn't affect other businesses possibly coming to the city.
“I think the businesses coming to Aiken look at the demographics of the area,” he said. “The population mix, the income mix, the geography. They make their own decisions and don't really watch what's happening to others.”
Clay Bolton, a local realtor for RB Bolton & Associates, said while the mall's foreclosure is a reminder that the real estate market is still tough, recent job announcements show favorable conditions in the Aiken business community.
“Academy Sports, LongHorn Steakhouse and Fresh Market are all signs that people still want to do business in Aiken,” Bolton said.
He noted that while the state of malls is somewhat in decline, the right community conditions and investment can sustain growth.
“Some malls have made it and done real well. Look at what Augusta Mall has done, and look at what the mall at Harbison in Columbia has done. I think it all depends on volume to keep those going,” he said, noting the level of shoppers.