The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

May 1, 2014

UPDATE: City of Enid reacts to nixed 'de-malling' deal

ENID, Okla. — After nearly two years of trying to secure a deal to renovate Oakwood Mall, Tulsa-based developer Vector Companies and managing company J. Herzog & Sons have parted ways.

"The Oakwood Mall is no longer under contract with Vector Securities. Oakwood Mall is currently exploring options for the future of the property," JHS announced in a press release.

In June 2012, Vector CEO Jim Dill announced they had plans to "de-mall" by eliminating the enclosed spaces and creating exterior entrances for the shops. Even after securing an incentive package, deadlines for construction passed without progress.

Shop owners complained that the project was plagued with a lack of communication from Vector. As late as March of this year, there were still no details available about when — or if — the mall would be renovated. Herzog has also avoided questions about the project.

The last public statement made by Dill or anyone else at Vector was in June 2013. Officials at the company have declined to return any calls for comment since then.

At that time, Vector President Brenda Dill said that competition among retail landlords had hampered her effort to secure enough contracts to proceed. In order to finance the renovation, she said, Vector needed commitments to fill 85 percent of the roughly 550,000-square-foot property.

Neither Vector nor Herzog could be reached for comment Thursday.

City of Enid officials expressed disappointment Thursday regarding the dissolution of the business contract between Vector Properties and JHS.

“The city did everything imaginable to enhance the opportunity for success,” City Manager Eric Benson said in a released statement. “It eventually came down to having a willing buyer and seller partnership. They had a deadline and just couldn’t get together on the deal.”

City leadership is very frustrated at this outcome, Benson said, but city staff has already examined other strategies, options and opportunities.

“From the very beginning, the city’s role was to encourage the partnership and seek a win-win outcome for our great community,”  Benson said. “Much time and energy (have) been invested in this relationship, but private enterprise all too often differs from municipal practice in its course of action.”

As city leadership researches new opportunities, Benson said new partners will be found.

“We have been approached by willing candidates already, and we are pursuing discussions to that end,” Benson said. “We will open the door to other developers as this transaction does not hinder economic prosperity in Enid.  Interest in retail expansion in Enid has never been stronger, and this private transaction does nothing to diminish our potential.”

Meanwhile, Ward 3 City Commissioner Ben Ezzell said he was surprised by the announcement.

“It was a surprise and frankly, a disappointment — but not a hugely great shock,” he said.

The deal, he added, had been a difficult one to put together.

“It was clearly not as solid as everyone would have liked to see,” he said.

The city of Enid has not yet released a statement. In recent discussions with the public and the city’s elected leadership, however, officials have reportedly expressed optimism and confidence that the deal would happen.

“I think that the economics are right for someone to reinvigorate the mall. I just wish this would have been the project,” said Ezzell. “I expect that someone will; I’m just frankly kind of bummed out that the timeline’s reset.”

The retail economy is viable in Enid, the commissioner said.

“But because it’s not been a thoroughly tested retail market, I think that folks are a little more cautious,” he said.

Look for developing coverage in print and online.

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