TAMPA, Fla. — The news of Westfield Countryside and Citrus Park Mall being in foreclosure shocked some local shoppers.
“I know it’s not as popular as it used to be, but it’s crazy to think it’s in foreclosure,” said Tyler Lassiter.
Local bankruptcy attorney Megan Murray said this was bound to happen.
“This isn’t something that happened overnight,” said Murray.
According to court documents filed in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, Westfield defaulted on their loans and now owes nearly $278 million for both properties.
“We’ve seen more national retailers file bankruptcy since the beginning of 2020,” Murray said. “And obviously there’s a lot of foot traffic gone from the malls because of the pandemic.”
According to Industry insiders, malls are facing several issues. People aren’t shopping at malls like they used to, they’re losing big named stores like Sears, Macy's and JCPenney, plus the COVID-19 shutdown made it difficult for mall tenants to pay their rent.
“It’s all forcing a lot of mall owners to make tough decisions,” said Murray.
The good news with this foreclosure is that Citrus Park and Countryside Malls are not closing. The lender and the company reached an agreement for the lenders to take over the property.
“That means the mall is just changing ownership,” said Murray.
Westfield Countryside released a statement on the foreclosure:
“Due to the continuing impact of the COVID pandemic, Westfield is working with the special servicer in regard to the foreclosure of Countryside and Citrus Park and, given the circumstances, believe this is the best outcome with regard to these two assets. We are committed to ensuring a smooth transition to new ownership, with both centers remaining open and operating throughout the process to serve the community.”