Seritage sells Joliet mall’s Sears site for a song

Auto dealer snaps up 17-acre site for just $4M

The former Sears at 3340 Mall Loop Drive in Joliet with CBRE's Adam Foret, Richard Frolik and Matthew Ishikawa (Google Maps, CBRE)
The former Sears at 3340 Mall Loop Drive in Joliet with CBRE's Adam Foret, Richard Frolik and Matthew Ishikawa (Google Maps, CBRE)

A suburban car dealer has bought one of the storefronts left vacant after Sears closed all of its stores in the state of Illinois, at a price that reflects the rough shape of the mall property it sits next to in another traditional retail exit from big boxes.

Ghaben Auto Group, led by Joseph Ghaben, paid $4.3 million for the 16.7-acre former Sears store at the southwest corner of the Louis Joliet Mall at 3340 Mall Loop Drive, CoStar News reported. Ghaben owns and operates a Mazda dealership in Oak Lawn and Ultimo Motors used luxury car dealerships in Northbrook, Westmont, Warrenville and Hickory Hills.

While Seritage Growth Properties was the seller of this property, it sits next to the mall that Starwood Retail Partners surrendered to a lender amid the pandemic.

Seritage was represented by Adam Foret, Richard Frolik and Matthew Ishikawa of CBRE. The firm had been marketing the property, which includes a 190,000-square-foot department store and a 24,000-square-foot auto center. It’s under zoning agreements that “allow a future investor flexibility for re-tenanting the building or redeveloping it to another use, which may include multi-family development,” according to marketing materials.

Ghaben’s plans for the property aren’t yet known, but a car dealership would be a new redevelopment option for shopping mall owners trying to court buyers for their vacant storefronts.

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Several suburban Chicago mall owners are marketing their properties as redevelopment opportunities or repositioning the assets themselves. JLL is marketing the 423,000-square-foot Lincolnwood Town Center on behalf of loan servicer Torchlight Investors. In Skokie, the France-based landlord of Westfield Old Orchard mall, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, is pumping $100 million into the property by adding 350 apartments to it.

New York-based Seritage has been unloading all of its properties that were previously owned by Sears in an effort to earn enough to pay off a massive loan to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

The 739,000-square-foot Joliet mall was built in the 1970s and has been struggling since before the pandemic. Sears and Carson’s closed their stores before 2020, leaving the property with only two department stores: Macy’s and JCPenney.

As the global health crisis drove down the need for physical stores, the mall’s owner Starwood defaulted on its $85 million loan for the property, leading to the lender taking over the mall via foreclosure in November 2021.

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