ALBANY — Business partners Milan and Umong Patel have become the go-to development group in northwest Albany, and indeed throughout southwest Georgia. They have been involved as principals in such well-knows Albany establishments as Olive Garden, Newk’s, Edible Arrangements, Steak N Shake, Panera Bread, and various hotels and liquor stores in the region.
Now the Patels have put together an investment group that is interested in purchasing the rapidly fading Albany Mall, after lenders announced plans to foreclose on the property.
“The mall is definitely going to change owners,” Milan Patel said Saturday. “There will be a ‘live cry’ sale on Nov. 2, and either a local investment group like ours or some investor who is looking to make money on the purchase — someone who’s only looking to add as many pennies as possible to their bottom line — will purchase that property.
“Umong and I have, I believe, put together a stable investment group that will look into the purchase. At the end of the day for me, I live about 2 1/2 miles from the mall. I have a vested interest in wanting to see it come back ... for my friends and family and for this community. This mall, a lot of people don’t understand, is actually doing well. You take the JC Penney store here: It did $11 million in (annual) business, as opposed to a JC Penney in New York City that did $7 million and was shut down.”
Patel said the entity that purchases the mall, which opened in 1976, will have to do its homework because, “frankly, it’s a mess right now.”
“You have four primary owners of that property: JC Penney — which is in bankruptcy — Belk and Sears — both of which came out of bankruptcy recently — and the Aranov brothers, who have basically walked away from the mall,” he said. “We bought the Sears property, which included the Chik-Fil-A restaurant, but we sold the restaurant to a New York investor and most of the Sears property to a hotel developer who is building a Hilton-branded hotel that will have 150 rooms and be a very positive tenant and create good traffic for the mall.
“The mall itself is a convoluted mess right now. All the agreements and covenants that were in place more than 40 years ago when it was built have expired. But we also see it as a great opportunity, an opportunity to put some lipstick on the property while we basically flip it and bring in tenants that a lot of people — despite the interest in online shopping — will still want to visit. There are stores in the mall — Dillards; Bed, Bath and Beyond; Cinnebon — that are doing well, and we’d bring in others that would draw people back to the mall.”
Since the original anchor tenants own their properties, they would not be included in the sale.
The current note on the mall property, in the amount of $28.7 million, was issued in June 2011.
— Alan Mauldin contributed to this report.