Carrie Rengers

New owner plans changes to drive traffic at Towne West Square

UPDATED — Great Neck, N.Y.-based Kohan Retail Investment Group, which owns almost 30 malls nationally, has purchased Towne West Square for $14 million.

“I’m glad to be part of the community in Wichita,” managing member Mike Kohan says. “I am looking forward to making the mall . . . a better place to be.”

The almost 900,000-square-foot mall is about 87 percent occupied, he says, though it has struggled in recent years with substantial departures.

“I understand it’s declining,” Kohan says.

The occupancy rate does not include parts of the mall that are owned by others, such as vacant former Dillard’s space that the company still owns.

“Thank God that we don’t have that many vacant anchors,” Kohan says. “Usually we buy malls less stabilized. . . . That was a good opportunity for us.”

He says he sees an opportunity for more national tenants.

“It’s logistically sitting in a good location.”

He’s interested in adding local tenants, too.

“My experience is the smaller local tenants didn’t have the opportunity often to open up businesses in these malls,” Kohan says. “We welcome everyone.”

His company now owns 27 malls nationally, some of which he purchased when they were only 50 percent occupied.

Kohan says his strategy is first to bring events.

“Events are very important.”

He’ll follow that with entertainment and a restaurant or bar. The idea is to bring traffic that will help retailers.

“That will be my approach. Obviously, I can’t say it’s going to happen tomorrow.”

Kohan says he has to study Towne West more before figuring out what kinds of renovations or upgrades he’ll make.

Though the $14 million sale price may seem like a bargain — the trust that backed a loan on the mall took a more than $30 million hit on the property — Kohan says it would be “suicidal” for someone to buy it who didn’t know how to run it.

“In terms of malls, it’s a good deal if . . . you have a plan for it,” he says. “You’ve got to know the ins and outs of these malls.”

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