By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — The Factory Outlets of Niagara Falls mall may be planning an expansion.
Town of Niagara board members discussed the mall's expansion during a budget meeting on Wednesday night but said that they had been offered no specifics by Macerich Partnership L.P., the company that owns the mall.
Charles Teixeira, a town board member, said that the town has not received any documents from the company outlining their plans for the expansion.
"There's nothing technically of an expansion, per se, in writing," Teixeira said. "It's all hearsay."
Macerich bought the neighboring Sabre Park mobile home park at a foreclosure auction last Friday. The company bought the lein on the property, then used a newly formed subsidiary, Fashion Outlets II, LLC, to purchase the park for $4 million.
Karen Maurer, a Macerich spokesperson, said that gaining ownership of the land has allowed the company to begin exploring expansion options.
"The outcome of the auction gave us the opportunity to reach out to retailers and other stakeholders to test interest, but no plans have been set," she said.
Maurer said the company plans to keep all leases held by residents of the park. "First and foremost we're committed to honoring the rights of residents," she said.
The company bought the mall for approximately $200 million last July.
Macerich has retained M. Shapiro Real Estate Group, the Michigan-based company hired to manage the park during foreclosure proceedings, as the park manager.
Maurer said that until the deed has been recorded, which should happen early next week, the company is not allowed to have any direct contact with residents.
"(Residents) need to talk to the park manager with any individual concerns for now," she said.
Michael Risman, the town's attorney, confirmed that there has not been any documents submitted related to an expansion of the mall.
"At this point, there has been no application to the town," he said.
He also said that he didn't know of any other governmental entities in the county receiving any paper work related to a mall expansion.
After residents of the park learned that a lien on the mortgage to the land was bought by the company that owns the mall, many people abandoned their homes anticipating that they would be forced off the land.
Robert Kehoe has lived in Sabre Park for nearly 10 years. He said that rumors about how the mall would use the land — a parking lot, more outlets, a Sam's Club — started circulating in the park after foreclosure proceedings began.
"People started to panic," Kehoe said. "I started to panic too.”
When the remaining residents learned that the the park was to be auctioned off even more left.
Kehoe wants to know whether he will be reimbursed for his trailer if Macerich does not offer him another lease, he said. He has recently made improvements to his home, including a new roof, new siding and better windows.
"I'm investing, but I don't know how far to go," he said. "Why should I spend money on this trailer if I just have to leave it?"
Today, only 44 of the homes in Sabre Park have people living in them and of those only 14 tenants are current on their rent. When the park was full to capacity there were 286 homes, John Ottaviano, the court appointed receiver of rents during the foreclosure proceedings, said last week.
Kehoe said that some of the people still living in the park have stopped paying their rent because they aren't sure if they will be reimbursed for their homes.
"A lot of people are thinking, 'why should I keep paying?' " Kehoe said.
The uncertainty that looms in the wake of Macerich's purchase of the park has caused Kehoe a great deal of anxiety. He and other park residents feel as though the company has not been honest about their plans for the park with residents or the media, he said.
"They're definitely lying," Kehoe said. "They know what they're going to do with this land."Big Red Number 44 Number of homes with people living in them in Sabre Park -- down from 286 homes