WestShore Plaza mall owner files for bankruptcy

Washington Prime Group, a shopping center company whose properties include WestShore Plaza in Tampa, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

According to documents filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on Sunday, the company is seeking financial restructuring that will allow it to pay off debt and stabilize a business model that has been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic, as more more customers have turned online to shop. .

In a statement, Washington Prime Group CEO Lou Conforti said the mall’s operations “would continue as normal for the benefit of our customers, tenants, vendors, stakeholders and colleagues.”

The company has secured a $ 100 million loan to help it stay afloat during bankruptcy proceedings. He plans to reduce his balance by about $ 950 million, he said in a statement.

The company’s revenue still has not recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, recent documents show. The company lost $ 261.8 million in 2020, compared to net profit of $ 2.7 million in 2019. The company had assets worth $ 4.1 billion and debt of 3.2. billion dollars at the end of 2020, according to its latest annual report.

Related: COVID-19 likely hastened the end of shopping malls as we know them

Washington Prime Group acquired WestShore Plaza shortly after the company split from owner Simon Property in 2014. The mall was part of a $ 4.3 billion purchase from another real estate trust, which had purchased the mall for $ 153 million in 2003.

In 2019, the company revealed that it plans to redevelop part of the mall property, converting it into a mixed-use development that includes residences, offices, a hotel, outdoor retail and residential areas. restaurants. The Tampa City Council unanimously approved these plans in October.

This rendering shows a redevelopment project for part of the WestShore Plaza shopping center in Tampa. The changes, which would include outdoor stores, residences, offices and a hotel, were approved by Tampa City Council in October 2020. [ Washington Prime Group ]

In a tenant FAQ, Washington Prime Group said plans to redevelop all of its shopping centers will continue as usual, with “minimal impact on our operations.”

“In practice, and for all intents and purposes, it’s really business as usual,” reads a letter signed by Conforti and other executives. “Ultimately, we have the capital to meet all of our operational obligations and continue to transform our assets into vibrant dominant city centers that our guests, tenants and sponsors deserve. “

Several retailers with stores in WestShore Plaza have filed for bankruptcy in recent years, including Sears, Charlotte Russe and New York & Co. JC Penney also filed for bankruptcy, but the company kept its WestShore Plaza store open.

Related: Lender to take over two Tampa Bay Westfield malls after defaults

Of Washington Prime Group’s 100 malls, 13 are located in Florida, including malls in Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Pensacola, Altamonte Springs and Ocala.

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