Cortana tenants told to move out; does the mall finally have a buyer?

    The few remaining tenants that occupy space in the largely vacant Cortana Mall have been given notice by the mall’s owners that they have to be out in the next two weeks, if not sooner.

    Tenants say they have not officially been told whether Cortana’s Nevada-based owner, Moonbeam Capital Investment, is planning to shutter the mall or if they’ve finally found a buyer for the property.

    Two tenants and one local real estate executive say they’ve heard a deal to sell the struggling, 1-million square foot property has been inked, but Daily Report has been unable to confirm that information.

    Moonbeam executives did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

    Though occupancy in the mall has been declining for years—as four of the five anchor tenants have closed their doors—the number of tenants in recent months has dwindled to just a handful.

    Elevate Church is among them. Pastor Keith Richard says he was notified in July that the church has to vacate by Sept. 15 the roughly 7,000-square-foot space it has leased at Cortana for the past two years. No explanation was given.

    A U.S. Army recruitment office in the mall is also moving out in mid-September, according to a local staff sergeant.

    Meanwhile, the Junior League of Baton Rouge, which has been using a vacant storefront in the mall to operate a diaper bank, is moving out Wednesday, following a letter it received in July.

    Earlier this summer, two of the mall’s remaining retail tenants—Sam’s Jeweler’s and Bath and Body Works—both shuttered their Cortana location.

    It’s unclear what the changes will mean for the sole remaining anchor tenant, Dillard’s Clearance Center. Anchor properties at the mall are separately owned and the Dillard’s has continued to operate, though it blocked off its interior entrance to the mall several months ago and is now only accessible from its exterior doors.

    Dillard’s corporate media office did not return calls seeking comment on whether it plans to close the store when the mall shuts down.

    Metro Council member Donna Collins-Lewis, whose district includes the mall, says she’s in the dark about what’s going on. Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Veneeth Iyengar, who handles economic development for the city-parish, says he is unaware of any deal in the works, and that’s also the case for Baton Rouge North Economic Development District Executive Director Jerry Jones.

    The Baton Rouge Area Chamber declines to comment.

    Commercial real estate broker Ryan Pecot of Stirling Properties, who represents Macy’s and has been trying for three years to sell its vacant anchor space at Cortana, says he is unaware of any major redevelopment plans and wouldn’t be surprised if Moonbeam is closing the property because it’s no longer economically feasible to keep it open.

    “You’ve gone from an A mall to a B mall to a C mall to a walking path for older adults, who want a safe, climate-controlled place to exercise,” Pecot says. “At some point, it just becomes too much of a liability to keep it open and you have shut it down.”

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