The city of Akron could take over the property of the former Rolling Acres mall if foreclosure proceedings for delinquent taxes are successful and a sheriff’s sale does not lead to a new private owner.
Summit County Fiscal Officer Kristen Scalise has begun foreclosure proceedings against Premier Ventures LLC, of California, which has not paid taxes on the property since it was acquired in late 2010.
If the property goes to a sheriff’s sale by next summer and is not purchased during two rounds of sales, the property would return to the county and the county would offer it to the city. Delinquent taxes and two liens on the property would be erased, said Scalise.
Premier Ventures owes more than $1.1 million in back taxes to the county and a lien holder.
Scalise said her office has repeatedly attempted to contact Premier Ventures and often the property owner will not respond. The county last contacted Premier in August, but has not heard from Premier since January, Scalise said.
“As the fiscal officer, it is my responsibility to go after delinquent taxes for the benefit of the schools, cities and levies those taxes support,” said Scalise in an interview this week. “We gave the current owner the appropriate amount of time to pay the taxes current or find another buyer.”
The Akron Public Schools has been the biggest loser in the nonpayment of taxes, said Scalise.
Premier owes the county $674,221 on two parcels dating from Nov. 2, 2010, through Sept. 30 this year. The Akron schools have lost out on $331,706, Scalise said.
The schools are annually losing more than $67,000 in taxes from the property. The county loses $13,000, the city $10,000 and entities such as the Akron-Summit Public Library $2,200 and MetroParks $1,500, said Scalise.
David James, Akron schools superintendent, said: “We certainly hope that this parcel can be brought back to productive use and restore some of our lost revenue.”
Scalise said a representative of Premier named John Kia has told the county that they are in the process of a sale, but no information has been available. If the property were sold, the buyers would have to pay the sale price plus the $1.1 million in back taxes and liens. Reached by telephone on Wednesday afternoon, Kia told a reporter he was busy and would call back, but did not. A phone message left with the lienholder was also not returned.
There are also two liens held by a trust in California for $457,798. The liens were purchased on Nov. 3, 2010, a day after the sale of the property from the previous owner, Invest Commercial LLC, also of California, for back taxes on the property dating from 2006. Invest Commercial also had foreclosure proceedings taken against it by Summit County because taxes were unpaid. That foreclosure was dismissed after the sale to Premier, Scalise said.
Former department stores attached to the mall were all owned individually by the stores and have since been sold except for the former JCPenney Outlet, which still operates under new ownership as JC’s 5 Star Outlet. It is the only retail business remaining on the former mall property. The other former department stores are being used by private businesses for storage or recycling.
The mall area has been closed since October 2008, when electricity was about to be turned off for nonpayment. In 2011, a man died after being electrocuted when he was attempting to steal copper wiring.
Mall land covering about 570,000 square feet and nearly 50 acres was purchased by Premier Ventures for $3 million in 2010. Invest Commercial bought Rolling Acres for $1.7 million in July 2006. Within four months, it was back on the market for $4.9 million. It failed to get any bids for a listed opening price of $2.5 million in an auction in 2009.
Premier and Invest never announced plans for the mall.
Owners of the former department store properties are hoping for any type of action.
“The owner has completely abandoned this property. It’s just gross negligence on their part,” said George Georgiadis, owner of Grandview Holdings LLC, owner of the former Macy’s now used for storage.
Georgiadis said he and the other three owners of the former department stores are keeping entrances to the inside of the mall boarded up and potholes in the roads filled.
He said middle school and high school students are gaining access to the former mall, which is missing railings and is full of glass. Homeless people finding shelter is another problem, he said.
“Our concern is you have homeless people and kids running into each other inside an abandoned mall and you have the potential for a tragedy,” said Georgiadis.
He is behind on his county taxes by $5,883.38, though he has entered into a payment plan with Scalise’s office and owes his first payment Tuesday.
Larry Jenco, owner of Old Main One LLC, which owns the former Dillard’s and is using it for storage, said demolition is needed on the former mall.
“There could be a lot of buildings there,” he said. “You can go out in those parking lots and put 10 to 12 big buildings,” he said.
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic said the city would be interested to receive the property and would look to build up a business district.
Plusquellic said he is often asked why the city allowed the mall to go into decline.
Many circumstances were not within the city’s control, he said, such as other shopping areas around Akron that became popular.
The city has rezoned the area around the former mall to spur more development and brought in national experts to try to determine future uses.
“Whether or not we take the ownership, we can then help people facilitate the development of those buildings into useful job locations for our people,” Plusquellic said.