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This expansion marketing plan for the former Via Port Florida mall, now under new ownership and renamed Lake Square Mall, showed between five and seven new outparcels for dining and retail tenants along U.S. 441. The new owner prefers to shift those outparcels to the opposite side of the mall.
This expansion marketing plan for the former Via Port Florida mall, now under new ownership and renamed Lake Square Mall, showed between five and seven new outparcels for dining and retail tenants along U.S. 441. The new owner prefers to shift those outparcels to the opposite side of the mall. (archive)

The new owners of Lake County's only mall unveiled ambitious plans for its improvement to the Leesburg City Commission Tuesday evening, promising to bring new life to an underdeveloped property.

Meir Benzaken and Laurent Abitbol, real estate investors and brokers with Exclusive Management and Properties, Inc. of Pompano Beach, specialize in reviving value-add retail properties and paid $23 million for the former Via Port Florida mall, GrowthSpotter first reported in late October.

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The group said they plan to spend $3 million to $5 million on improvements to the mall, and have already made progress in less than 60 days of ownership.

Learn who the latest investors are to take a shot at reviving Lake County's primary mall, the experience they bring, and their need for a retail broker.

The first change was to take the property back to its original name --  Lake Square Mall. The mall's name had been changed to Via Port Florida by Turkish developer Via Port Properties when it bought the property in September 2014.

Chief among the new owners' progress is the recruitment of five, and possibly six, new tenants. They include Georges Marciano Ranch, a clothing store by the founder of Guess which will sells denim apparel; Yvonne Marie, a woman's wear designer from Canada; Pajar, a Canadian waterproof boot maker; and Lucky Seven, a casual fast fashion retailer for teens, said Mark Stephenson, senior asset administrator for Exclusive Management and Properties.

Mall occupancy now stands at 76 percent, and further leaseup and beautification efforts for the exterior "will bring a momentum after that to help bring national tenants and outparcel interest," Abitbol said.

Outside, the new owners are planning façade and landscaping upgrades and covered entrances to the BELK department store. An atrium is planned for the rear side of the mall, and the group will look to move its five to seven potential outparcel sites behind the mall, rather than along the U.S. 441 frontage.

Already, the company has launched Wi-Fi access in the mall and is dealing with roof replacement and air conditioning. The new owners promised to make the changes "classy and well-done with no cut corners."

Via Port tried to make the mall an entertainment destination, installing a Fun Zone with 22 bowling lanes, a 5,000-square-foot arcade, two party rooms and a restaurant and bar in the area that once was a Target store.

Via Port will continue at the mall as a tenant under Via Entertainment, and has opened a new go-kart track inside the mall near its Fun Zone.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Teresa Burney can be reached at 352-455-1955 or at Teresaburney4@gmail.com. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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