-MALL AT ROBINSON-
By Elizabeth Perry
Township Manager Frank Piccolino III is worried after learning The Mall at Robinson sold on Nov 29 for $46 million, far below its assessed $88 million value.
As of press time, Piccolino said the new owners, Kohan Retail Investment Group, have not contacted the local government.
“That’s something I thought they would have done by now,” PIccolino said.
The sale had Piccolino worried about a possibly shrinking tax base. If the new owner seeks to lower the assessed value based on the price they paid, it could negatively impact the township’s budget. The township is actively developing around the mall, including a 240-unit apartment complex. A new gun range, Range USA, opened there in recent weeks.
Chicago-based Jones Lang Lasalle Capital Markets negotiated the sale of the 874,553-square-foot mall between former owners, QIC US management and Kohan Retail Investment Group.
“We didn’t even know it was being sold, we didn’t know it was on the market, we had no idea,” Piccolino said.
Sources at QIC did reach out to the township after the mall was sold.
When asked why the company decided to sell, a spokesperson for QIC, Caroline Gentile, said via email; “QIC's successful divestment of The Mall at Robinson is in line with our investor-endorsed strategy.”
Kohan Retail Investment Group, based in Great Neck, New York, has been embroiled in numerous lawsuits over the way it has run other malls and seen multiple foreclosures of some of its other properties.
The organization owns 66 malls around the country, according to the group’s website. These include the Clearview Mall in Butler County and the Colonial Park Mall in Harrisburg. The company went on a post-COVID-19 spending spree, buying up more than a dozen properties at less than the properties had been valued for.
According to UNI Court documents, there are a dozen lawsuits against Kohan Retail Investment Group in New York state and county courts and four in California, one of which accuses the company of wage theft. There were other lawsuits in Nassau, Oklahoma and in Federal Court.
In an article by Samantha Christmann of the Buffalo News, she detailed how the town of Hamburg filed an objection to Kohan’s purchase of the McKinley Mall, citing the company’s habit of buying malls at a discount, then allowing them to fall into disrepair.
Though she lists more than a dozen situations in which this was the case, and malls ended up in bankruptcy and empty, she also points out there are many other malls operated by Kohan Retail Investment Group which continue to operate without incident.
Current Hamburg Supervisor Randy Hoak said the company purchased the mall before he took office.
“We certainly had some concerns, because a quick search showed some serious concerns in other communities,” Hoak said.
McKinley Mall was snapped up for $8.5 million, far below its assessed value. Kohan appealed their property tax burden with the town and won.
“I'm hopeful for the property because of the investment of the Buffalo Bills Stadium,” Hoak said. The new stadium is being built nearby the McKinley Mall property, which has sparked interest from retailers.
“If not for the stadium, we'd be taking a more aggressive stance. We do know in other communities there have been other property tax problems. We recognize there's greater potential for that property, and we'll see if Kohan takes advantage of that potential,” Hoak said.
Lawsuits filed against the Kohan Retail Investment Group state its owner goes by several names, including Mehran Kohansieh, Mike Kohan and Mike Kohen. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Piccolino said despite the controversy surrounding the purchaser, he was heartened by the fact the mall has been in the top 4% of all retail centers across the country.
“Fortunately, the mall’s in great shape,” Piccolino said.
Information provided by JLL bears this out; The two-story mall, which was built in 2001, hosts more than 4.81 million visitors per year. The space which Sears formerly occupied is vacant, but three other anchor stores remain, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Macy’s and JCPenney. The rest of the mall, positioned on 155 acres, is 92.1% leased to small shop retailers at this time.