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Foreclosure sale of mall postponed

With its going-out-of-business sales over, a JCPenney store that had once been an anchor of Viking Plaza Mall is now shuttered and dark. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press)1 / 2
Leanne Larson of Art Bar 39 has deferred her expansion plans at the Viking Plaza Mall while mall management negotiates a foreclosure effort and tries to recruit new businesses. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press)2 / 2

The pending sheriff's sale of Viking Plaza Mall that had been set for next week has been postponed until July 20, a Douglas County sheriff's deputy told the Echo Press.

Deputy Kevin Wiseman said he received an email Wednesday, June 6, confirming that it had been pushed back a month.

Viking Plaza Mall's owners, who include manager Scot Snitker, were facing a sheriff's foreclosure sale on Thursday, June 14. However, Snitker said the mall is trying to refinance with a new lender, and the new bank had just completed an appraisal. He said he hasn't seen an appraisal figure yet, but believes that it will satisfy the prospective lender.

Snitker said he hoped to hear by next week if he and the other owners have new financing. They still owe approximately $10 million on the mall.

"We have the funds to refinance," he said. "It's a matter of finding a partner to refinance with."

Viking Plaza Mall is losing two of its main anchor stores. The JCPenney store has closed for good, and the Herberger's store has been holding going-out-of-business sales since its parent company announced April 18 it was shutting down all of its stores by August.

Losing the mall's two anchors triggered the foreclosure proceedings against it, Snitker has said.

Snitker said he was recently at the Global Retail Real Estate Convention in Las Vegas, drumming up interest in the Viking Plaza Mall.

"We have some deals that are moving forward," he said.

Tenants waiting, watching

Meanwhile, tenants in the mall have been dealing with unanswered questions about its future and their own, and some are optimistic as to what is around the corner.

Leanne Larson, owner of Art Bar 39, said she wants to expand her space at the mall to add coffee service and other items.

"I've had a business plan for a year," she said. "I'm basically stalling what I could be doing with Art Bar just because I don't know what's happening in the mall."

Elaine Angen, owner of Alex Travel and Utopia Tours, said she is loyal to the mall, which has brought her business good visibility. She said the mall is a big draw in bringing visitors into Alexandria.

"It would be hurtful for the town not to have the mall," she said. "Some stores may regroup and change sizes. Once it starts filling, I think it'll do well. At least that's our hope."

At the same time, she wonders about what the future will bring.

"We are waiting for definite answers too, just like everybody else," she said.

Tom Yager, owner of Alexandria Hearing, said he remembers when the grocery store, Pete's County Market, once anchored the mall, and how everyone was upset when it left.

"But it wasn't long before they rebounded," he said.

He's not worried about the mall, which he feels is well run, and plans to keep his business there. Yager expressed sadness for employees who have lost their jobs as businesses have closed, and said he doesn't recall a time when so many storefronts were empty.

"We're hoping they find another anchor or two. We've got exceptional people at the mall and a good manager," he said. "We're just hoping that the mall stays solvent."

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