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Liberty Fair Mall is sold
Hull Storey Gibson Companies announced Wednesday that it acquired Liberty Fair Mall (above) on Commonwealth Boulevard in Martinsville. (Bulletin file photo by Mike Wray)
Thursday, May 31, 2012
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Hull Storey Gibson Companies has acquired Liberty Fair Mall in Martinsville, the companies announced Wednesday.
“With a strong framework of existing tenants in a high-traffic location, Liberty Fair Mall has the potential to become a vibrant and prosperous retail facility. We believe that an investment in improving the overall appearance and layout of the property will strengthen its ability to serve the community and attract customers from the surrounding areas,” Hull Storey Gibson Managing Partner Jim Hull said in a news release.
“Martinsville continues to face economic hardship, but we hope that revitalizing this prominent property to a modern, successful retail complex will reassure other businesses that Martinsville is a smart investment and help drive economic recovery and growth,” Hull added.
The release noted that with anchor stores of Belk, Sears, JC Penney Outlet, Kroger and Office Max, Liberty Fair Mall houses several national retail and restaurant chains in addition to local stores and services.
The release did not state the acquisition price.
This is the second time in three months the mall has changed ownership. It was sold at auction Feb. 29 for $15 million to a financial lender who was the noteholder. The auction stemmed from a default on a loan, according to reports at the time.
The 434,317-square-foot Liberty Fair Mall is the 19th enclosed mall in Hull Storey Gibson’s portfolio of retail properties across the South, according to a release from the Atlanta-based company.
In March, Hull Storey Gibson bought the Piedmont Mall in Danville, its first mall property in Virginia, the release stated.
The two Virginia malls — Liberty Fair and Piedmont in Danville — encompass more than 1 million square feet of retail property located between Greensboro, N.C., and Roanoke and represent the company’s efforts to expand the geographical reach of its retail portfolio, according to the release.
“We are thrilled to expand into Southern Virginia this year and look forward to improving these two properties to serve the growing retail and economic needs of the area. We envision the two properties as complementary assets providing increased regional shopping and dining options to the surrounding communities,” John Gibson, managing partner of Hull Storey Gibson Companies, stated in the release.
“I can’t tell you how happy we are to be coming to Martinsville,” John Gibson said in a phone interview Wednesday night.
He said there is a resurgence of manufacturing in the United States, and he believes there is a great opportunity for small, manufacturing-driven Southern cities like Martinsville to make a comeback.
“We believe Liberty Fair Mall is the best real estate location within Martinsville,” with infrastructure, traffic counts and accessibility with traffic lights, he said. He noted Walgreens and McDonald’s are nearby and said Belk, Kroger and Office Max are doing well.
“We have a diamond in the rough,” he said of the mall.
His company is looking forward to working with local and state leadership to try “to revitalize a key retail hub in that community,” he said.
Gibson and his partners have “about 75 years of experience among us,” and they are committed to retail business in small communities in the South, where they live and grew up, he said.
“We are optimistic by nature,” Gibson said.
Hull Storey Gibson “is a well capitalized company that is focused on redeveloping and improving properties we own,” he said.
Over about the next 12 months, the company will be trying to determine what is “the optimal, highest and best use of the property (Liberty Fair Mall).” He added, “We have the capital, wherewithal and confidence to make changes necessary to bring the property to the highest and best use.”
“This is not government money. This is our own money,” he said of the investment in Liberty Fair Mall. “We have a strong level of confidence in Martinsville over the next 10 years.”
He said the company purchased Liberty Fair Mall through C-III, “a special servicer — a facilitator in terms of commercial real estate,” in a “very competitive process.”
He said Hull Storey Gibson is “a good owner, a committed owner” of Liberty Fair Mall.
Hull Storey Gibson Companies LLC owns 22 shopping centers, 23 free-standing big-box stores and 19 enclosed regional malls comprising more than 12.5 million square feet across Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, the release states.