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November 19, 2012

New owner for Traverse City outlet mall

TRAVERSE CITY — A township official hopes some tender loving care from the new owner of Traverse City Outlets will revive the beleaguered outlet mall.

TC Center Partners, LLC, led by Traverse City developer Jerry Snowden, won a Sept. 25 online auction to buy Traverse City Outlets, formerly called the Horizon Outlet Mall, on US-31 South.

Snowden hasn’t announced definitive plans for what he’s going to do. But anything is better than the ownership of “a nameless, faceless corporation,” said Garfield Township Supervisor Chuck Korn.

“The business basically died from lack of attention,” Korn said. “We basically have been appraising that property as empty land with a restaurant and theater on it. The building I think is a tear down; it wasn’t a great quality construction to start with, and it hasn’t been maintained well.”

The two properties that include a theater, three blue-roofed buildings, and restaurant are assessed at a cash value of $3.5 million, Korn said. “We figure $250,000 is the cash value of the three blue-topped buildings. They’re not worth nothing, but very close to it.”

Snowden said the top suggestions he typically hears for the properties include Costco, a warehouse retail store; Trader Joe’s, a specialty grocery store; and Whole Foods, a natural foods supermarket. People also believe that Target and T.J. Maxx need a larger home.

“It’s all up in the air,” Snowden said. “It’s a great site, great location, great potential. There are a lot of moving parts, existing tenants, existing leases.”

Snowden said various approaches could include re-leasing, renovation, upgrades or demolition. The final decision will depend on what market research reveals, he said.

The property has a complicated history, and Snowden’s third attempt to buy the site turned out to be charmed.

The faltering economy can’t necessarily be blamed for Horizon’s recent troubles. Outlet malls have been booming in the country, thanks to price-conscious shoppers who believe they are getting true designer clothes at a fraction of the price, according to Dailyfinance.com.

Outlet malls have proven so popular that retail stores are manufacturing clothes exclusively for the outlet channel. That means shoppers aren’t necessarily getting the same level of quality of their sister stores in the traditional malls, Dailyfinance.com reported.

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