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For sale at $4 million: Cortana Mall

After more than four years of trying to turn around the fledgling Cortana Mall, the owner now wants to sell the property.

Moonbeam Capital Investments, a Las Vegas-based company, bought the mall in 2013 for $6 million—then a bargain—with the hopes of bringing it “back to life.”

Now the property is listed for $4 million. The anchors, which were not part of the original deal, are not included in this sale either, as they are tenant-owned. Beau Box of Beau Box Commercial Real Estate and Mike Bristol of Henry S. Miller in Texas are the brokers.

The mall, on Florida Boulevard near Airline Highway, has struggled in recent years, losing multiple anchor tenants and other retailers.

Box, whose firm is also separately listing the 12-acre JCPenney space at Cortana for $2.4 million, says he expects the new mall buyer to embrace a nontraditional use. Some of the ancillary retailers in the area, like Sam’s Club, Lowes and Walmart, are performing well, he says, and the area has potential to succeed.

“There is a shift in older regional malls that are becoming nontraditional or non-retail buyers and tenants,” Box says, “a lot of which are community colleges, distribution, charter schools, churches. It’s highly unlikely that mall continues to be a retail location.”

“We’re trying to sell it to somebody who specializes in distressed malls and who can keep this thing alive or develop it,” Bristol adds.

Macy’s has left the mall, while Sears and JCPenney have announced they are closing, leaving Dillards as the only remaining anchor tenant. Virginia College, a private, for-profit college, moved into the anchor space that had been occupied by Service Merchandise in 2010.

Moonbeam has tried shifting away from retail as real estate experts warned the mall does not have a future as a traditional retail center, and must instead target alternative uses like schools and offices to remain viable.

Moonbeam reached out to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber for help finding nontraditional tenants and creating a strategic plan for the space. Donnie Miller, BRAC’s director of business development, says the chamber has been meeting with the owners and broker for several months about how to best repurpose the space, and will continue that discussion if a new owner reaches out.

“As an economic development organization, we see a strong potential in what Cortana could be,” Miller says. “There’s a whole community around Cortana that could thrive off a new industry coming in. What does that industry look like? I don’t know.”

As it does with other projects, BRAC has engaged with the mayor’s office on the Cortana matter, Miller says. The city could potentially step in to help revitalize the area, though it is unclear whether that would be through tax incentives or other avenues.

The roughly 30-acre property has more than 430,000 square feet of space, including the former Mervyns. The mall was built in 1976 and renovated in 1997.

—Sam Karlin

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