RICHMOND -- Hilltop mall has been handed over to a third-party receivership management firm while the mall's owner and mortgage holder work out a deal, a spokeswoman for the current management team said.
Rumors have swirled in recent weeks among business and political leaders that the mall's owners, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc., had fallen behind on mortgage payments and into foreclosure, casting doubt on the future of what was once among the East Bay's most prominent malls.
"We want to be clear that Hilltop mall remains open and ready for business," said Brooke Houghton, spokeswoman for Jones Lang LaSalle, which specializes in commercial real estate management. "There is not going to be any interruptions to business. The mall is not closing."
Houghton said Jones Lang LaSalle took over the mall in July. Meanwhile, she said, Simon Property Group Inc. and the undisclosed bank that owns its mortgage are "trying to come to an amicable solution," Houghton said.
Houghton said Jones Lang and LaSalle have overseen some minor repairs and maintenance work and are working with current tenants on lease renewals.
Built in 1976, Hilltop mall was the centerpiece of a residential and commercial development area dotted by parks, a rebirth of land that was once owned by Chevron Corp.
But the mall soon faced increasing competition as other retail outlets cropped up along the Interestate 80 corridor. By the 1990s, a reputation for crime at the mall also eroded its customer base, and anchor stores and smaller boutiques began to shutter.
In 2003, Simon Property Group Inc., the world's largest mall owner, took over after buying out rival Taubman Centers Inc. Today, the mall's space is under capacity, but it does have major retailers such as Walmart, Sears, Macy's and JC Penney, as well as a bustling 24-Hour Fitness club. Restaurants, banks and hotels are all within the mall's sphere.
City Manager Bill Lindsay said Thursday he had only recently learned of instability with the mall's ownership, when he heard concerns from local executives of a nearby hotel.
"Stability of ownership is always a good thing in terms of long-term management of a retail facility," Lindsay said. "We want to meet with reps from Jones Lang LaSalle to see how we can collaborate to make the mall more successful."
Police Chief Chris Magnus said crime data have shown upticks in car burglaries in the Hilltop area, and the department has responded with increased patrols. He added that it was a priority to maintain safety at the high-volume shopping area during the holidays.
"We have given them more in the way of policing services in recent months," Magnus said. "I'm not sure if (the uptick in crime is) directly related to the receivership or just the time of year, but it is an ongoing concern."
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726. Follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers.