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WestShore Plaza mall owner files for bankruptcy

Washington Prime Group cited the economic downfall caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
WestShore Plaza was mostly closed due to the coronavirus pandemic by March 23, 2020.
WestShore Plaza was mostly closed due to the coronavirus pandemic by March 23, 2020. [ DIRK SHADD | Times (2020) ]
Published Jun. 14
Updated Jun. 14

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

According to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Sunday, the company is seeking a financial restructuring that will allow it to pay down debt and stabilize a business model that was hammered by the coronavirus pandemic, as more customers turned online to do their shopping.

In a statement, Washington Prime Group CEO Lou Conforti said mall operations would “continue in the ordinary course for the benefit of our guests, tenants, vendors, stakeholders and colleagues.”

In a separate statement emailed to the Tampa Bay Times, the company said “there will be no impact to operations, including leasing and redevelopment, at WestShore Plaza. ... Throughout the Chapter 11 process, we expect business as usual at our town centers, where our tenants, sponsors and employees will continue operating as normal, with a focus on providing enjoyable experiences for our guests.”

The company has secured a loan of $100 million to help it stay afloat as the bankruptcy proceedings play out. It plans to trim its balance by about $950 million, it said in a statement.

The company’s revenues still have not recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, according to recent filings. The company lost $261.8 million in 2020, compared to net income of $2.7 million in 2019. The company had assets worth $4.1 billion and debt worth $3.2 billion at the end of 2020, according to its most recent annual report.

Related: COVID-19 has likely quickened the end of malls as we know them

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

In 2019, the company revealed it planned to redevelop part of the mall propety, converting part of it into a mixed-use development including residences, office space, a hotel and open-air retail and restaurants. The Tampa City Council unanimously approved those plans in October.

This rendering shows a proposed redevelopment of part of WestShore Plaza mall in Tampa. The changes, which would include open-air shops, residences, office space and a hotel, were approved by the Tampa City Council in October 2020.
This rendering shows a proposed redevelopment of part of WestShore Plaza mall in Tampa. The changes, which would include open-air shops, residences, office space and a hotel, were approved by the Tampa City Council in October 2020. [ Washington Prime Group ]

In an FAQ aimed at tenants, Washington Prime Group stated that redevelopment plans at all of its shopping centers would continue as usual, with “minimal impact on our operations.”

“Practically speaking, and for all intents and purposes, it really is business as usual,” read a letter signed by Conforti and other executives. “The bottom line is we have the necessary capital to meet all of our operational obligations as well as continue to transform our assets into the dynamic dominant town centers our guests, tenants and sponsors deserve.”

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

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

Among Washington Prime Group’s 100 mall properties are 13 in Florida, including shopping centers in Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Pensacola, Altamonte Springs and Ocala.