Non-binding bids on Sears space at Cortana due today

Investors interested in buying the former Sears location at Cortana Mall have until the end of today to submit a “non-binding indicative bid” on the 200,000-square-foot property, one of four vacant anchor tenant spaces in the aging mall.

The building has actually been listed for sale since August 2017, when the company closed the store, one of two in the local market. But since Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, the court has taken over the disposition of various company assets and has appointed New Orleans-based SRSA Commercial Real Estate to sell off six shuttered storefronts in Louisiana and Mississippi. Among them is the Cortana location as well as former stores in Shreveport, Bossier City, Alexandria, Monroe and Meridian, Mississippi.

According to a flier from SRSA, interested buyers can bid on one or more of the properties offered for sale. But since the bid process is “non-binding,” there’s no obligation on either side to accept a deal that’s offered.

“This is the bankruptcy court trying to get an idea of what someone might be willing to pay,” says commercial real estate appraiser Wesley Moore of Cook, Moore, Davenport and Associates. “It’s a fact-finding mission, a card game, where they want everyone to show their hand. But you can’t blame them for asking.”

It’s anyone’s guess what an investor might be willing to bid. In nearly 18 months on the market, the Cortana Sears hasn’t sold yet. Neither have the vacant stores once occupied by JCPenney, Macy’s and Mervyn’s, all of which also have been for sale since 2017.

The mall property itself is also for sale, as is Virginia College—which was the lone poster child for adaptive reuse of a former anchor tenant space in the mall—following its abrupt closure in November. A Dillard’s discount store is the sole remaining anchor tenant at Cortana.

Given the mall’s troubles—it’s more than 45 years old and it’s located in an economically depressed location during an era in which traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores are losing market share to e-commerce—Moore doesn’t expect the Sears to generate much interest or fetch much money on the open market.

“It’s the proverbial white elephant,” he says. “It’s very large and very unattractive. I’d say put something like a Virginia College in it. But, wait, no, that doesn’t work.”

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