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Sale points to possible new future for Northeast Philly’s troubled Liberty Plaza shopping center

The property's difficulties began with the announcement that its anchor Walmart was moving to Philadelphia Mills.

A Dick's Sporting Goods at the Liberty Plaza shopping center in Northeast Philadelphia.
A Dick's Sporting Goods at the Liberty Plaza shopping center in Northeast Philadelphia.Read moreCBRE

A unit of Huntington Valley-based Sant Properties L.P. has acquired the Liberty Plaza shopping center in Northeast Philadelphia for $10.4 million, pointing toward a possible path forward for the financially troubled property still reeling from the loss of its anchor Walmart store four years ago.

Sant Properties, which is operated by real estate investors Ravinder and Hardeep Chawla, purchased the 372,130-square-foot property at 4501 Woodhaven Road at Franklin Mills Boulevard in July, according to records filed with the city.

The firm has since had the property subdivided into seven parcels so that sections can be sold to potential shopping center occupants who want to buy — rather than lease — their space, Ravinder Chawla said Wednesday.

Prospective occupants include grocery stores, ethnic markets and entertainment venues, but no agreements have been signed, Chawla said.

Liberty Plaza sits to the immediate east of the Philadelphia Mills shopping mall, formerly Franklin Mills, which is owned by retail real estate giant Simon Property Group of Indianapolis.

The shopping center's difficulties began with the announcement that its anchor Walmart planned to relocate to the site of a former Boscov's Inc. department store within the Philadelphia Mills complex, according to a report by commercial real-estate debt-tracker Trepp LLC.

Liberty Plaza fell into the hands of a so-called special servicer about a year ahead of the 2014 move, shortly before its previous owner, a Simon affiliate, transferred the property to its lender at the site, U.S. Bank N.A., in lieu of foreclosure.

At the time of its purchase by Sant Properties last month, $43 million was owed against the property under a mortgage originated in 2007, according to Trepp. Almost all of the proceeds from last month's sale will be applied to expenses related to the property's "liquidation," meaning virtually nothing will be returned to investors holding that debt, Trepp said.

Liberty Plaza center was 45 percent occupied by tenants, including Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. and Raymour & Flanigan, when it sold last month, according to a release from real estate services firm CBRE, whose brokers Peter Stevens and Kevin McClernon represented U.S. Bank during marketing and negotiations.