Mall price pegged at $12.4 million |

Mall price pegged at $12.4 million

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Businessmen in 2005 had negotiated a $12.4 million deal to sell the Main Street Mall, according to a lawsuit, a price tag believed to be the largest ever for a commercial building on the street.

The deal was not finalized, a Third District Court lawsuit claims, but real-estate insiders will likely be intrigued as they learn what one of the largest buildings on Main Street was to fetch.

The lawsuit pits two business entities against each other, known as 333 Main and Park City Main Street Mall. The 333 Main firm filed the lawsuit trying to stop the defendant, the current owners of the mall, from signing long-term leases with tenants.

The 333 Main side says it had a deal to purchase the mall, at the $12.4 million figure. There are worries about leases interfering with plans to redevelop the building.

The side wants to stop the mall from signing leases and claims that the Main Street Mall breached the deal by not providing information about leases or renewals beyond Nov. 18, 2007.

The deal dates from Nov. 19, 2005 and the potential purchasers paid $200,000 for a one-year option to buy the mall with the possibility of a one-year extension costing $50,000.

The $12.4 million sum is "not a bad price, actually," says Steve Hooker, a longtime commercial real-estate broker, who has negotiated deals on Main Street since 1986.

Hooker says the mall’s size, which he says covers 80,000 square feet, is enticing to buyers and its redevelopment potential is great.

"It’s the biggest price tag that I’m aware of on Main Street. We’ve done a lot of $2 and $3 million deals," he says.

Hooker says Main Street is a strong real-estate market. Nine or 10 buildings on the street sold in the last two years, he says, and people are still searching for buildings to buy. Commercial deals on Main Street start at $485 per square foot and reach up to $1,500 per square foot, he says.

"Right now, there’s nothing for sale and people are looking," Hooker says.

Russell Wong, whose family controls the mall, declines to comment about the lawsuit and the price tag. Mary Anne Wood, the 333 Main attorney, also declines to discuss the case.

Joe Wrona, Wong’s attorney, says $12.4 million is a reasonable price for the mall.

"It’s one of, if not the largest, parcels on Main Street. It reflects the fair market value of the property at the time the option was entered," Wrona says, adamant that the lawsuit does not impact the stores inside and that it is "utterly without merit."

The Summit County Assessor’s Office values the mall and the land it sits on at just less than $1.7 million. The owners paid $16,369.64 in property taxes in 2006, the Assessor’s Office says.

The lawsuit’s influence on the future of the mall is unclear. The mall has long been seen by many as an eyesore on Main Street and was among a handful of buildings on the street criticized in a recent report charging that Main Street’s historic charm is threatened by development.

Inside, the mall has been a refuge for stores seeking lower rents than those charged on Main Street. It has attracted a collection of artist galleries in recent years and the artists have tried to market the building as The Galleries @ 333 Main, rather than the Main Street Mall.

There have been complaints for years that business in the mall is not as strong as it is at stores and restaurants that front Main Street.

On Thursday, Sundance Film Festival organizers plan to open the New Frontier on Main in the mall, a tech-heavy spot for festival-goers to listen to panels and participate in workshops. The mall, with its expansive space, has long been a choice for people seeking rentals during film-festival week, when lots of space on Main Street draws short-term tenants.

Meanwhile there have been sporadic discussions about a major renovation of the mall but none have advanced.

In 2001, City Hall started to review an earlier plan to renovate the mall but the talks did not proceed. In that idea, 13 residential units were contemplated on the top floor, the building would have been rehabbed and its exterior redone.

Any renovation of the mall would likely include residences like condominiums. The real estate would make an overall redo of the mall more enticing because sales would probably provide the financing needed to complete the rest of the work.

Wrona, however, says Wong does not have plans to redevelop the mall.

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