The long-troubled Columbia Eastgate Mall went on the auction block Friday and was promptly purchased by its major tenant, Burlington CoatFactory Warehouse Corp.
The Burlington, N.J.-based company bid $3million for the mall, and officials said an attempt would be made tolease vacant space to off-price retailers.
Burlington officials also said they would be expanding their own presence at the mall, adding another 25,000 square feet to the 50,000square feet the store already occupies.
The off-price outlet has been the anchor tenant at the mall since 1986 and one of the few success stories for the beleaguered shopping center.
Mark A. Nesci, a vice president for Burlington, said the mall's owners had apparently failed in bringing in the right mix of retailers to Eastgate, a situation Burlington hopes to correct.
"Evidently, they didn't have thewherewithal to complete the project," Nesci said. "We're going to look for good tenants, a good synergy."
All current leases at the mall were terminated Friday with the sale of the property. Burlington officials, however, were unable to say which retailers might stay on at the mall and which would go.
No new tenants have been signed, officials added.
The property, which was owned by Maryland WholesaleAssociation Limited Partnership, fell into foreclosure in early January.
Officials representing Maryland National Bank, which held themortgage, said that approximately $7.8 million was still owed on an original loan of $9.6 million.
Principals in the limited partnership include Peter Kirk, Patrick McCuan and Pete Simmons, all formerly of KMS Group. None could be reached for comment last week.
The mall was originally expected to draw major off-price tenants but fell short through a series of metamorphoses. The latest revitalization effort came last fall when a weekend flea market operation was installed.But that effort proved unsuccessful as well.
The purchase of the property by Burlington must still be approved in Howard County Circuit Court. That is likely to occur within 30 days.
A major national retailer, Burlington's sales at Eastgate totaled about $5 million last year, said Garry Graham, a spokesman for the company.
Employees at the store -- which number about 60 -- were informed of the purchase Friday and told that their jobs would be spared, Graham said.