SAGINAW TOWNSHIP, MI — Two competing investors engaged in a bidding war during the final minutes of the online auction to purchase Fashion Square Mall, with a $10.8 million offer topping the rest, officials said.
Representatives of the auction stated that the winning offer would not become a final sale until additional paperwork has been completed within 30 working days. Officials said they would keep the investor’s identity under wraps until then.
Bidding for Fashion Square Mall began Monday, Aug. 22, at noon, and was due to end Wednesday, Aug. 24, at 11 a.m.
According to the auction website, the highest bid was $6.3 million for most of the event. But a flurry of activity — 10 bids in total — elevated that dollar figure by millions of dollars during a dramatic final 25 minutes.
The highest bid was $7.3million at 10:50 a.m. on Wednesday. Three additional offers raised the price to $8.3 million just before the clock struck 11 a.m. A bid of $8.8 million — presented with less than 30 seconds remaining — reset the website timer that was counting down to the moment when no further bids would be accepted. Each new bid submitted after that reset the countdown to three minutes, prolonging the event beyond the 11 AM deadline.
Six bids were received after 11 a.m.
Within seconds of the top bid, a $10.6million offer was made. With just five seconds remaining on timer, however, a $10.7million counteroffer reset the countdown. The next — and final — bid of $10.8 million was entered at 11:14 a.m.
The auction was over three minutes later.
Southfield-based real estate firm NAI Farbman was one of the online auction’s managers, along with Ten-X, an Irvine, California-based real estate firm.
The mall was available for purchase in part because its previous owner — Great Neck, New York-based Namdar Realty Group — in 2020 defaulted on $34.8 million in mortgage debt owed to Wells Fargo. The lending giant then grabbed the property last year as part of a foreclosure auction, with plans to sell it in this week’s online auction.
Fashion Square Mall opened its doors on October 4, 1972. The mall was built on 71 acres farmland in northern Saginaw Township.
At the time, anchor tenants JCPenney and Sears were the site’s main attractions. Other inaugural retailers included Town & Country Fashions, William C. Wiechmann Co., Bintz Sports, Carter Shop, Seitner’s, Alfano’s Stride Rite, and Tait’s Hobby Shop.
Fashion Square Mall was flooded with customers during the mall boom, which helped define American culture in 1970s. ‘80s. In turn, the shopping center fed a hungry commercial district, attracting business growth down Bay and Tittabawassee roads during those early decades.
In 1993, a new food court was added, keeping customers fed during long sessions spent browsing stores.
Eight years later, the facility underwent a $10 million facelift that applied a 21st century sheen to its 1970s-built body.
Foot traffic thinned in recent decades, though, both as a result of the region’A shrinking population and a shift in consumer buying habits towards online stores are two of the reasons why there is a decline in their numbers.
In January 2001, Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates Property Inc. purchased the complex along with 20 other regional malls and two shopping centers from the mall’s original developer — Cleveland-based Richard E. Jacobs Group Inc. — for $1.2 billion.
The mall was sold again in July 2016 to Namdar Realty Group — along with The Lakes in Muskegon — for an aggregate price of $66.5 million, including the assumption of a $38.2 million loan secured by Fashion Square Mall.
Not all of the 529,944-square-foot mall was available in this week’s auction.
While most of the shops at the 100-unit mall are tenants, Macy’s owns its own box there.
Sears also owned a box in the northern corner of the facility. However, the store closed in 2019. Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Transformco — which now owns Sears and its former space in the mall — hired Stokas Bieri Real Estate to sell the old Sears unit. That property remains up for sale.
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