The Mammoth Mall is on the market for $6 million. Will it suffice for Mono’s South County offices?
Two weeks ago, the 40,000 square-foot Mammoth Mall went on the market, and Mono County is kicking the tires to see if it can house its South County offices and staff.
In July, 2017, County Finance Director Janet Dutcher reported that Mono County currently pays $1.3 million annually in rent its existing South County Office space at the Sierra Center and Minaret Malls in Mammoth Lakes.
In July, 2017, the Mono County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to direct County staff to issue a Request for Qualifications for a contract to design and build a 33,000 square foot South County Office Facility on the McFlex Parcel, which is adjacent to the Mammoth Lakes Police Department and County Courthouse in Mammoth.
In July, 2017, Mono County staff predicted that project would cost approximately $20.9 million. At the time, Jeff Land, a principle of Investment Banking Firm Brandis Tallman, LLC, told Supervisors that the project would cost the County about $42.3 million over 35 years, when debt issuance and interest were accounted for.
In contrast, Mono County Administrative Officer Leslie Chapman said at the Board’s February 20 meeting that the asking price for the Mammoth Mall is $6 million. However, improvements would be needed at an additional cost to the County. For instance, the facility would have to be upgraded to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Chapman told Mono County Supervisors on Tuesday, February 20, that the County’s interest in the Mammoth Mall is preliminary and called it a “back of a napkin” sketch at this point. She said staff has concluded the mall could be a reasonable option and suggested the County look into the building further.
No County staff member has experience in commercial real estate, Chapman said, who suggested the County bring in local realtor/broker Matthew Lehman of Matthew Lehman Real Estate to represent the County. If approved by the Board of Supervisors, Lehman would enter into a buyer’s compensation agreement, wherein if the mall turns out to be a winner, he would get a portion of the seller’s proceeds. His services would not cost the County a dime, according to Chapman.
Lehman said in a separate interview that the old Chart House, now home to Bleu Market & Kitchen, would not be part of the sale.
The County would need to inhabit both floors of the mall, Chapman said. This means the County will work with current lease holders so as not to be disruptive to those businesses, she added.
District Two Supervisor Fred Stump said he was supportive of the idea and that it could be an excellent opportunity. He said he thought the County should pursue it. “Ultimately, is it cheaper for the taxpayers?” Stump asked.
“Just because it’s cheaper, doesn’t mean it’s the fix,” said District Five Supervisor Stacy Corless, whose district includes a portion of Mammoth Lakes.
She said the County should consider access and parking needs in making any decision about the property, adding that the livelihoods of the Mammoth Mall’s current tenants should be considered in the Supervisors’ decision as well.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) study for the McFlex parcel near the Superior Court, which is the location where a new South County facility would be built if the County goes that route, will be conducted in parallel with the Mammoth Mall query.
The Supervisors approved Lehman to represent the County in the potential Mammoth Mall deal on Tuesday.
There is no specific timeline for this project as the County is juggling the CEQA and the mall at the same time.
Chapman explained the County is looking at the building and examining potential financing.
She added there are other parties who have expressed interest in purchasing the mall.
In September 2016, following an assessment by County-contracted Todd Lankenau of Reno’s Collaborative Design Studio, the County determined it would need 43,000 square feet to accommodate South County staff.
The search for a new home for SoCo employees has evolved from potentially renting and eventually owning the Sierra Center Mall (where employees currently work) to building a $21.3 million facility. The Sierra Center Mall has been deemed unacceptable and unsuitable by Supervisors.
The County and Town have contemplated a joint 33,000 square-foot facility, which would be part of a larger complex on the McFlex parcel that would eventually include Town of Mammoth Lakes government offices.