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Deal to turn Cortana Mall into Amazon Center stalls out, according to Virginia College owner

6 months 2 weeks 1 day ago Tuesday, May 19 2020 May 19, 2020 May 19, 2020 5:35 PM May 19, 2020 in News
Source: The Advcocate
Image: The Advocate

BATON ROUGE - The former Virginia College site at the Cortana Mall is back on the market after the deal with Amazon to build a fulfillment center fell through.

According to the Advocate, Developer Seefried Industrial Properties made deals in the past for fulfillment centers and currently has a distribution center in south Baton Rouge.

The owner of Virginia College said several buyers were interested in the 90,000-square-foot Virginia College property, but two backed out after Seefried proposed buying all the mall properties.

"The (buyer) and I ended up contracting with was going to buy the entire Cortana Mall, demo it and build a huge facility there," said Wilson LaFoe, owner of DL Investments LLC, which is based in Jackson, Mississippi. "The purchaser was very reasonable and offered me a fair price, they did an awful lot of work putting this together …. They had the right to back out, and it cost them money."

LaFoe said the property was about 30 days from completing a sale when the buyer pulled back due to issues getting control of other parcels on the site.

"They said they couldn't get a couple other property owners to come to an agreement on a reasonable price …. It would have been an incredible opportunity for Cortana. They would have had 1,000 good-paying jobs in the area," he said. "I hope that this gets put back together. It could come back to life."

Amazon did not confirm interest in Cortana Mall, citing company policy, and declined to speak in an interview. 

“We are constantly exploring new locations and weighing a variety of factors when deciding where to develop sites to best serve customers; however, we don’t provide information on our future roadmap," said Jen Crowcroft, spokesperson for Amazon.

Much of Cortana Mall is no longer operating. Only a Dillard's clearance center is still operating among the anchor stores.

The large anchor stores at Cortana are owned individually. Only a Dillard's clearance center is still operating among the anchor properties. 

Back in September of 2019, Moonbeam Leasing & Management, a Las Vegas-based company that bought the internal portion of Cortana and the vacant Mervyn’s anchor store in 2013 for $6.15 million, shut down much of the mall's interior at the intersection of Airline Highway and Florida Boulevard.

The Virginia College owner said he thinks that the same buyer for his property had previously bought Macy's.

According to state records didn't connect Seefried Industrial Properties to the buyer, Cortana Place Acquisitions LLC, registered by New Orleans real estate attorney Scott Willis at Fishman Haygood.

The Macy's store at Cortana and a 13.3-acre tract was sold for $1.65 million in February to Cortana Place Acquisitions. The property had originally requested $2.1 million.

Virginia College was first put up for sale back in February of 2019, several weeks after the school shuttered its operations. Before it was a college, the building housed a Steve & Barry's clothing store and originally was a Service Merchandise retail location. 

Cortana Mall is inside an Enterprise Zone, which would offer economic incentives for new job creation as city officials look to kickstart redevelopment at the site.

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