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CHATTANOOGA, TN-CBL & Associates Properties Inc. has added about 2.2 million sf to its regional mall portfolio. The locally headquartered retail REIT paid $249 million in cash and assumed debt for the 1.2-million-sf Mall Del Norte in Laredo, TX and the 990,000-sf Northpark Mall in Joplin, MO.

The amount of assumed debt was $41.6 million. Secured by Northpark mall, the non-recourse loan carries a fixed interest rate of 5.75%, according to a statement from CBL. CBL intends to initially finance the acquisition through its various lines of credit and may access a form of fixed rate financing on the unencumbered property in the near future, according to the statement. Based on current income, the malls are expected to generate a combined initial yield of 7.34%.

Northpark Mall is a 991,076-sf mall located on Joplin’s main retail thoroughfare, Range Line Road. Occupancy is 77%. Anchors include Famous Barr (The May Co.), Famous Barr-Men’s, JCPenney, Sears and Hollywood Theaters. The property comes with two vacant spaces formerly occupied by Montgomery Ward and ShopKo. Built in 1972 and expanded and renovated in both 1997 and 1996, the mall posted average mall shop sales of $308 per square foot in 2003. The closest mall competition is 75 miles away, according CBL’s announcement.

Mall Del Norte is a 1.2 million-sf single-level mall located at the intersection of Interstate 35 and Hillside Drive in Laredo. Built in 1977, it is 88% occupied and anchored by Dillard’s, Foley’s, JCPenney, Mervyn’s and Sears, as well as a Beall’s, Foley’s Home store and Joe Brand. The property includes a vacant anchor space formerly occupied by Montgomery Ward. The food court is in the process of being renovated. Mall Del Norte posted average mall shop sales of $350 per square foot in 2003. The closest mall competition is about 140 miles away, according CBL’s announcement.

CBL & Associates Properties Inc. is one of the largest mall owners in the US and the largest in the Southeast. The company owns, holds interests in or manages 166 properties, including 69 enclosed regional malls totaling 71.5 million sf. No CBL executive was immediately available Monday to discuss any specific plans for the vacant anchor spaces in its new properties.

In announcing the purchase, Charles Lebovitz, CBL chairman chief executive, says the properties offer significant opportunity to improve cash flow through re-tenanting and upgrading the malls and through creative use of the vacant anchor stores. In addition, there are opportunities to achieve greater efficiencies in mall operations, specialty leasing and marketing, he says.

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