Tucson’s oldest mall has new owners.
El Con Mall was purchased for $81.7 million by a group fronted by St. Louis Rams owner Stanley Kroenke.
Kroenke plans on continuing to operate the nearly 93-acre property as a “vital shopping destination,” according to a press release from Eastdil Secured, a real estate investment banking company in Santa Monica, California, that represents the new owners.
The sale ranks as one of the largest real estate transactions in Tucson history, said Hank Amos, president of Tucson Realty & Trust.
It’s also an indicator of how investors view the Tucson economy, he said.
“That says a lot that somebody would spend that much money,” Amos said. “It’s good for Tucson to see investors having that type of confidence.”
Rick Volk, president of Volk Company Commercial Real Estate, echoed Amos’ statements.
“Anytime you have someone putting that amount of money into the town, it’s positive for Tucson,” he said. “A lot of that is a reflection of the strength of the tenants and long-term leases there, but if they felt Tucson wasn’t moving in the right direction, they wouldn’t make that kind of investment.”
Tucson’s elected officials weighed in on the transaction.
“We always welcome an infusion of new capital,” Mayor Jonathan Roths-
child said. “And we hope they will be good stewards of the center.”
City Councilman Steve Kozachik, whose ward includes El Con Mall, said he hopes the owners breathe new life into the property.
“It’s a historic, mid-town shopping center that needed some new blood,” Kozachik said.
The deal marks an end to the Kivel and Papanikolas families’ 54-year run of operating the mall.
The two families opened El Con in 1960 next to Tucson’s first resort, the El Conquistador, which opened in 1928.
With original anchor tenants such as Montgomery Ward and Woolworth’s, the mall prospered for decades.
But its fortunes plummeted in the late 1980s as once-prominent retail stores began to fold across the country.
Although the mall’s future looked bleak, the owners didn’t give up on it and embarked on a multimillion-dollar makeover to lure stores to the property.
Beginning in the early 2000s, national retailers returned to the site, including Home Depot, Target, and, eventually, Walmart.
Amos commended the previous owners for preserving the property and turning it around.
“Not a lot of malls can make that successful transition,” he said.
Kroenke, whose estimated net worth is $5.6 billion, registered a limited liability corporation called TKG El Con Center last week with the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Its parent company, TKG Management, is located in Columbia, Missouri.
In addition to his NFL franchise, Kroenke owned the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche, but turned ownership over to his son when he became a majority partner with the Rams. NFL rules prohibit ownership of other major sports franchises. Kroenke also owns the English Soccer Club Arsenal and numerous real estate holdings.
Kroenke is married to Walmart founder Sam Walton’s niece, Ann Walton.