Northgate Mall could prove the template for Tri-County Mall rehab

Northgate leasing team said to be retained

CINCINNATI - A prospective buyer of the Tri-County Mall could be planning a retail revival similar to those underway at Northgate Mall in Colerain Township and Towne Mall in Middletown.

Sources in the real estate brokerage community said a CB Richard Ellis leasing team that's known for its work on mall recoveries has been hired by an investor who purchased the mortgage note on Tri-County Mall. The identity of the note buyer is still not known. Leasing specialists Chris Hodge, in CBRE's Cincinnati office, and Mary Bresnahan of Columbus, did not return calls seeking comment.

"Chris reached out to us last week and said he'll be working with the note buyer," said Andrew Sellet, a vice president specializing in retail tenant site searches for Cassidy Turley Commercial Real Estate Services. "My bet is that they'll try to turn some (of the Tri-County Mall) inside out, like they've done at Northgate and Towne Mall."

As WCPO Digital reported Monday, a Hamilton County Judge has ordered the mall to be sold to satisfy nearly $205 million in debt . The owner of the mortgage note would be in the best position to claim the property when it is sold at a sheriff's auction in July.

Hodge and Bresnahan have been working for months on the Northgate and Towne Mall properties.

"They're doing a great job on my property," said George Ragheb, an investor in SA Mary Ohio LLC, which acquired the Middletown mall last November.

Ragheb said more than a half-dozen new retailers have tripled the mall's occupancy rate to 59 percent. Several retailers have submitted proposals to fill the long-vacant Dillard's store.

"When we bought this project, everybody thought 'we're dumb,'" he said. "Based on the interest we've generated we actually have very little space available. There is much more interest than we have available space."

At Northgate, Hodge and Bresnahan have pulled tenants from other locations on Colerain Avenue to the Northgate site, a 1.1 million-square-foot shopping mall that was purchased out of foreclosure by the Tabani Group of Dallas, Texas last year. Among the new clients landed: Marshalls, ULTA, Burlington Coat Factory and Cheddars restaurant.

Sellet said that approach will be tougher to execute at Tri-County.

"The problem is that some of those guys they'd go after have already landed in some of the vacant boxes out there," Sellet said.

Springdale Economic Development Director Jeff Tulloch said Monday that the Tri-County Mall might have to reconfigure some of its retail space to other commercial uses.

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