It was one of the major goals announced during my first State of the City Address and it remains a top priority of my administration: the redevelopment of the Southtown Mall property. It is clear that the property’s current owner, Haywood Whichard, is not interested in the mall’s long-term future. That is why I am asking the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission to draft an urban Renewal Plan for Southtown Mall.
Mr. Whichard, who owns shopping malls across the country, has characterized himself as an investor, not a property developer. In an August issue of Crain’s Cleveland Business, Whichard described his ownership interest in a struggling mall in suburban Cleveland by telling a reporter that “his business is not to improve the malls he buys. Instead, his strategy is to buy malls, hold them and resell them at a profit without concern for how the property is used in the future.”
However, we DO care about Southtown’s future. The Urban Renewal Plan process, as outlined by state law, requires the Redevelopment Commission to collect evidence and provide documentation of blight in an area. The commission must then create a redevelopment plan for the area that defines how the plan serves the greater public good. Finally, two independent appraisals are used to establish a fair market price for properties within the redevelopment area. Following this procedure, the City would pay Mr. Whichard a fair market price for the Southtown Mall property. Mr. Whichard has indicated to local reporters that he plans to cooperate in this process.
While this process represents a change in strategy, the end goal remains the same. The City hopes to find an owner/developer willing to invest the time and resources necessary to make Southtown a vibrant, productive part of the south side of town.