SEMINOLE — The year appears to be ending on a bleak note for Seminole Mall — it's losing another store.
The reason may not be the economy but the mall owner.
"The Dollar Tree dollar store in the … mall will be closing down in three weeks because the owners of the mall will only write three-month leases," Seminole council member Jim Quinn said during a recent council meeting.
Dollar Tree officials confirmed the store was closing, but declined to comment further.
Mayor Jimmy Johnson, who is executive director of the Seminole Chamber of Commerce, confirmed the news about the short-term leases.
"The maximum's three months," Johnson said.
Short-term leases allow the mall's owner, Downtown Seminole LLC, to have income but be poised to quickly rid the mall of most tenants.
"I think they're waiting for something to happen," Johnson said. "The three-month leases (are) kind of like an ace in the hole."
What Downtown Seminole is waiting for is uncertain. Jim Gibbs of Downtown Seminole and Susan Rooth, head of the Seminole Mall Merchants Association, did not return phone calls asking for comment. Patty Neito, spokeswoman for RMC Property Group, the mall's leasing agent, declined comment.
The mall, at the northeast corner of Park Boulevard and 113th Street N, was built in 1964 and has become the city's "downtown."
Its 425,292 square feet are anchored by a Kmart and a Bealls department store. A CVS drugstore and a movie theater are also there. A Publix also anchored the mall until last year when it moved across 113th Street to a refurbished Albertson's. The grocery's departure worsened the situation for the mall, which had been struggling even before the economic downturn hit.
Seminole Mall Acquisitions bought the approximately 39.3 acres in March 2002 for $20.7 million. Four years later, Downtown Seminole, a Delaware corporation, bought it for $35.7 million.
At that time, the Pinellas County Property Appraiser assessed the value at about $21.2 million. That climbed to $26.2 million in 2008 but has since dropped. The assessed value is $15.8 million.
Downtown Seminole's purchase sparked a bevy of rumors concerning the mall's future. Those included speculation that the mall would be razed to make way for an upscale shopping mecca that would put International Plaza to shame, an open mall anchored by a big-box retailer, or even a residential, or mixed-use development. But none panned out and officials aren't getting their hopes up.
"I don't look for anything exciting to happen," Johnson said. "They're not giving out but so much information, which to me is not logical. Nobody knows. Not even (City Manager Frank) Edmunds knows and he knows everything."
Reach Anne Lindberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.