Wal-Mart jumps in to salvage Brookdale site

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 15, 2010 - 10:10 PM

Plans for the failed mall include having a Super Center as new anchor and reviving a creek that runs under the parking lot.

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Wal-Mart developer Gatlin Development Co. confirmed Friday that it plans to buy the all-but-empty Brookdale site, ending years of hand-wringing about the failed Brooklyn Center mall.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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Goodbye, ghost town, hello, Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart developer Gatlin Development Co. confirmed Friday that it plans to buy the all-but-empty Brookdale site, ending years of hand-wringing about the failed Brooklyn Center mall with a bang. Terms of the purchase agreement, expected to be signed next week, aren't being disclosed. The 64-acre mall has been on the market for $17.5 million.

Wal-Mart will anchor a large new retail development targeted to open by mid-2014, with a 150,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Super Center that will include a grocery store, Gatlin's president, Loren Van Der Slik, said in an interview Friday. The developer will tear down most of what's there, and build or redevelop an additional 435,000 square feet of leasable retail space, he said.

It will salvage the newer food-court wing of the existing mall, which will be converted to shops in a climate-controlled indoor area, he said.

Gatlin is buying the Macy's store at the site in a separate deal that hasn't closed yet, he said, and plans to tear it down. The existing Sears store will stay and isn't part of either transaction.

Shingle Creek, a brook that runs through the property, will get a makeover. Plans call for excavating the creek from beneath the parking lot where it currently runs, giving it daylight and creating a green creekscape and bike path to connect with one that runs along Bass Lake Road.

The proposed name for the new development: Shingle Creek Crossing.

"It's going to be a great change," Van Der Slik said.

The mall's current owner, a group led by Capmark Financial Group Inc. in Horsham, Pa., couldn't be reached Friday. The group took the ailing mall back in a sheriff's foreclosure auction earlier this year. The previous owner owed about $52 million on the $54 million loan. Capmark itself is struggling through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. confirmed that the deal was in the works. Spokeswoman Lisa Nelson said the proposed Brooklyn Center store is somewhat smaller than the average Wal-Mart's 185,000 square feet. Nelson estimated that the store would have about 300 employees, about 60 percent of them full-time. Full-time hourly Wal-Mart workers earn an average of $12.28 per hour, she said.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Tim Willson said he was very excited by the plans, discussed Thursday night at a planning commission workshop. The mall's fate has been a top concern for his community, he said.

"That's been the No. 1 question everywhere I go: What's happening with Brookdale?" he said. "If Brooklyn Center was to say it has a downtown, it would probably be right about there."

The new shopping center is expected to generate about 1,000 jobs, about a fourth of them at Wal-Mart, he said. He said he was told the hourly Wal-Mart jobs would pay $11 to $11.50 per hour. Demolition is expected to start by January, he said.

Gatlin's Van Der Slik said it's too early to talk about general contractors for the job. But the general process, he said, is to select two or three contractors based on referrals. Three local contractors who have built several Wal-Marts said they hadn't heard about the job yet.

Mike Sims, president of the Minnesota office of Mid-America Real Estate Group, said he's representing Wal-Mart and will also be handling the leasing for Gatlin. He's optimistic, he said, because retailers like to be near Wal-Marts and Brookdale is in a great, well-established area. It has excellent visibility and access, he said.

"The bones of Brookdale Center are extremely strong," Sims said.

Gary Eitel, Brooklyn Center's director of business and development, said the new Wal-Mart will most closely resemble the new Wal-Mart in Bloomington.

Eitel called the redevelopment "a new birth."

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683

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