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Tri-County Mall's next owner is a New York investor who will seek new 'junior anchors' for center

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CINCINNATI - New York investor Daniel Ridloff will have to pump “tens of millions”  of dollars into the Tri-County Mall to fill its empty space with junior retail anchors, experts predict.

Ridloff recently introduced himself to Springdale city officials as the buyer of a mortgage note on the 1.3 million square foot shopping center. Ownership of the note puts Ridloff in the best position to claim the property at a Hamilton County Sheriff’s auction next month.

Ridloff did not return phone calls from WCPO Digital. But he did tell Springdale’s economic development director Jeff Tulloch that he wants to rebuild the mall as a retail center before experimenting with alternate uses like office space, call centers, hotels or apartments.

“He wants to get right on it,” said Tulloch. “I’m confident he’s working on redevelopment plans, leasing plans.”

Ridloff is a real-estate finance veteran who has worked for the Trump Organization in New York and the Switzerland-based private-equity firm, Swiss RPM, according to his bio at World Health Networks, where he is listed as chief operating officer.

Court records identify the buyer of the note as Tri-County Mall Investors LLC and Ridloff as the limited liability company's manager.

The 77-acre retail center, at the intersection of State Route 747 and I-275, has been struggling with high debt loads for several years. Wells Fargo Bank, acting as a trustee for mortgage investors who financed the mall’s last purchase in 2005, filed to foreclose on the property last April. It has been operating in receivership since last summer.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Steven Martin ordered the property's sale May 1 to settle total debt of $204.7 million plus interest. Tulloch said Ridloff didn't say what he paid for the mortgage note. The property was last appraised by Hamilton County at $66 million.

Tulloch said he and Ridloff have discussed various options for Tri-County Mall in multiple phone conversations in the last several weeks. Tulloch said Ridloff’s initial plan will be to recruit “junior anchors” to add to the retail tenant mix at the 62-year-old shopping center.

Tulloch predicted it would take “tens of millions” in new investment to attract the kinds of retail tenants Ridloff has in mind.

Veteran Cincinnati retail broker Steve Brandt agrees with that estimate.

“It’s going to take demolition of some of the structures there and new dollars … to entice retailers to come to the project,” said Brandt, president and CEO of Brand Retail Group Inc. in downtown Cincinnati. “With enough money and enough elbow grease, somebody can put together a successful project there.”

Tri-County Mall has more than 40 retail spaces empty, based on its searchable map of mall tenants. The mall did not return WCPO Digital’s calls seeking additional details.

The area surrounding Tri-County Mall has one of the highest vacancy rates in the Cincinnati region, according to Xceligent, a real estate data firm. The region’s average vacancy rate is 9.8 percent for retail properties; the West Central area, which includes Springdale, Evendale and Woodlawn is 15.8 percent vacant.

“The (regional) vacancy rate has dropped like a rock in the last five quarters,” said Loren DeFilippo, senior regional director of analytics in Xceligent’s Cincinnati office. “Discounters have expanded. Marshall’s came in and opened a bunch of new stores. Pizza places have been going like crazy.”

Data supplied by Xceligent indicates junior anchors Ulta Salon, Dick’s, Hobby Lobby and Marshall’s have been among the most active junior anchors in Cincinnati.

Tulloch said he urged Ridloff to talk to the organic food retailer, Earth Fare, based on conversations he had with the North Carolina –based company last year.

“They were very interested in actually going into what used to be called Princeton Plaza, across the street from the mall,” Tulloch said.

But the grocer and the property owner couldn’t come to terms on a deal and Earth Fare shifted its focus to other areas. Tulloch thinks Earth Fare could be lured back to Tri-County if Ridloff made an attractive offer.

“I certainly hope so,” Tulloch said. “I’m enthusiastic about it. I think it would make all the sense in the world.”

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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