The Esplanade mall in Kenner to change ownership

The Esplanade mall in Kenner is expected to change hands later this month. Ahead of the sale, a new management team has been brought in to run the shopping center, and the city's leader expects it will help shape the future of the site.

Acting Kenner Mayor Michael Sigur said Simon Property Group is moving toward a sale of the expansive commercial property, and Pacific Retail Capital Partners has been retained as mall manager. Najla Kayyem, who heads marketing for Pacific Retail, confirmed that a transaction was in the works but would not disclose any specifics.

The Esplanade has languished in recent years under the ownership of Simon Property Group, the country largest real estate investment trust. City incentives helped land Macy's as an anchor retailer in 2008, and Target followed in 2011.

A new movie theater complex was added three years ago, but The Esplanade has consistently struggled to hold on to smaller tenants, even as other shopping malls in the New Orleans area have flourished.

Simon Property Group has removed information about The Esplanade from its website. A representative did not respond to an interview request Thursday.

Sigur is confident the new owner can rescue not only the flailing site but also the area next to the mall.

The Gateway, a 265-unit, high-end apartment complex, has been on hold since it was proposed last year because Simon Property Group has stalled on providing the needed right of way on Ring Road, which circles The Esplanade. Pacific Retail has provided assurances that the new owner will expedite the permissions needed for the apartment complex to begin construction, Sigur said.

Other projects in the vicinity include a $25 million CarMax dealership, catty-corner to the mall on 32nd Street. Ronnie LaMarque is also planning a Lincoln showroom at his Ford dealership across the street, the mayor said.

The construction of a new terminal at Armstrong Airport, across Interstate 10 from The Esplanade, could well bring new shoppers to Kenner, but Sigur said it will ultimately be the mall itself that draws interest.

"It still has life. It has drawing power," he said.

And even though business at the mall has lagged, Kenner has still seen modest growth in sales tax collections -- its largest revenue source -- in recent years, Sigur said.

Pacific Retail, based in El Segundo, Calif., manages eight mall properties, according to its website. They include the West Oaks Mall in Houston and shopping centers in California, New York, Illinois, Utah and Hawaii.

Simon Property Group's unloading of The Esplanade comes six years after its failed takeover attempt of General Growth Properties, then owner of the Riverwalk Marketplace in New Orleans and Oakwood Shopping Center in Gretna. GGP rejected Simon's $10 billion offer, despite being in the midst of the largest real estate bankruptcy in U.S. history. The company eventually reorganized, keeping Oakwood under the GGP umbrella, and created a spinoff, Howard Hughes Corp., which owns the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk.

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