Business Brief: Jax Firm Seeks Tenants For Regency Square; Says ‘We Have Creative Ideas’

With Regency Square Mall in litigation and losing tenants, a Jacksonville real estate company has signed an exclusive leasing agreement to help fill space at the Arlington shopping center.

“It’s still very, very good real estate,” Clint Murphy, president of Murphy Land and Retail Services Inc., told our Jacksonville Daily Record news partner.

The regional enclosed mall, built in 1967, is at 9501 Arlington Expressway, where Atlantic Boulevard picks up and heads straight to the Beaches.

“Regency Square Now Leasing” signs went up Wednesday along the eastern edge of the property. The agreement went into effect last week.

“We have creative ideas. It will take a new direction to make it work,” Murphy said.

Murphy and Matt Demir, director of real estate investments, represent 300,000 square feet of space in the mall’s east wing, which remains anchored by J.C. Penney Co. but has lost tenants.

The west wing is vacant and the subject of litigation.

Three department store spaces are independently owned, with just one – the Dillard’s Clearance Center – open, so those spaces are not included in the leasing agreement.

Murphy said he met in December in New York with mall owners Mason Asset Management and Namdar Realty Group LLC. Murphy Land and Retail has a nine-month agreement to recruit tenants.

Demir said the lease can be extended and the west wing could be added to it when that litigation is resolved.

The east wing is 58 percent vacant, according to the mall. Along with local tenants, several national retailers remain, including Bath & Body Works.

Victoria’s Secret recently closed and national retailers Champs and Foot Locker are building-out space in a shopping center across the street, which will deplete occupancy even further.

Murphy said Namdar’s charge to his group is to “bring life to the project that makes sense.”

“Obviously we have a dead mall that needs attention,” Murphy said.

“Our job is to bring it back to life in some creative form.”

Murphy and Demir said there’s no rule book for how to do that.

“We are studying the closed mall scenario around the country,” Murphy said.

The benefit at Regency is its location with traffic flow, population and business density, including a daytime workforce population that would be attractive for restaurants. It also has a bus stop.

“But like many C-class malls around the country, we are in a transition and it will take something creative on our side,” Murphy said. “These will not be your main street retailers.”

They have some ideas.

• Food trucks that will open a location in the mall’s food court. The concept could be expanded to have food court tenants operating inside and trucks outside.

• A soccer association that wants an indoor-outdoor presence.

• A large health club.

• A medical clinic.

• A school.

• Ethnic food stores.

• A nightclub.

• A skating rink.

• An indoor amphitheater.

• Offices.

That’s inside. There’s land outside that can be developed as outparcels, they said.

Murphy said a national housing group potentially is interested in building townhouses on the peripheral mall property.

There’s also interest by restaurants and a hotel.

“There are national tenants being negotiated on the parking lot pads at this point in time,” Murphy said, indicating interest by restaurants, a potential hotel and gas station and convenience store.

He said Murphy Land and Retail is talking with national tenants interested in interior and outside space.

Those expressing interest like that there’s bus transportation at Regency, road infrastructure with a workable traffic pattern, a strong traffic count and density of people, Murphy said.

The mall also is near The Home Depot and Target as well as a movie theater.

Murphy and Demir said they will work with the city, including District 1 City Council member Joyce Morgan, for input.

They said they also are dealing closely with mall General Manager Jim Kramer.

Demir said he has been working with the mall ownership for nine months.

“Matt has been bringing them tenants and opportunities and the New York landlord realized he was working on the project and delivering,” Murphy said.

“They really need somebody locally.”

Regency Square averted a foreclosure sale scheduled Thursday after Namdar and Mason Asset Management appealed the judgment to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

A tenant filed a lien against the landlord to cover costs of repairs and the foreclosure sale was ordered when it wasn’t paid.

International Decor Outlet LLC, which intended to anchor the west wing, has pending litigation against the landlord.

Demir said media attention to the lawsuits “doesn’t help, but we truly believe in the property and that is why we are going full-force in.”

He said Namdar and Mason are one of the nation’s top 20 landlords and he is asking about renovations to the parking lot.

Mason Asset Management, based in New York, says it owns more than 120 shopping centers, including 45 regional malls, totaling more than 30 million square feet of space.