DeSoto Square mall closed, but Hudson’s Furniture open

When Hudson’s Furniture moved into an empty Dillard department store in DeSoto Square in 2014, two more anchors occupied the mall.

But Sears closed in 2019 and is now home to Go Store It Self Storage. JC Penney graduated a year later.

Now the DeSoto Square shopping center itself is closed as the owner applies for funding to redevelop the property.

Despite the mall’s closure, Hudson’s furniture remains open and owner Fred Hudson said Thursday the retailer would not be going anywhere.

“It was a very good deal for Hudson’s and we’re trying to buy the property right now,” said Hudson, 65.

When news broke last week of the mall’s closure, Hudson general manager Chet Ballenger told the Herald that Hudson’s “owners are 100 percent committed to staying open at DeSoto Square mall. Our business has been phenomenal and we are actually hiring. “

1_Hudson's.JPG Sep 24, 2020 – Despite the closure of the DeSoto Square shopping center, Hudson’s Furniture will remain open. Owner Fred Hudson said Thursday the furniture retailer was going nowhere. Bradenton Herald File Photo

Fred Hudson repeated this commitment on Thursday.

“We’ll stay in Bradenton no matter what,” said Hudson, who founded the company in 1981 and has 18 stores along the I-4 corridor from Ormond Beach to Bradenton and Sarasota.

The 110,000-square-foot space has two exterior entrances independent of the mall and provides 120 community workplaces, Hudson said.

2_Hudson's.JPG 11/17/2018 – Despite the closure of the DeSoto Square shopping center, Hudson’s Furniture will remain open. Owner Fred Hudson said Thursday the furniture retailer was going nowhere. Bradenton Herald File Photo

Hudson’s Furniture is the only bright spot in an otherwise bleak downward spiral of lost business after Meyer Lebovitz bought New York’s 303 301 Blvd mall. W., April 2017 for $ 22.8 million.

Shortly after the acquisition, Lebovitz announced that he had extensive plans to revitalize the mall, but they were not implemented. In 2018, lender Romspen US Master Mortgage LP, a Cayman Islands limited partnership, filed for foreclosure on the property. The mall owners failed to repay $ 21.7 million of the due loan.

“They made it extremely difficult from day one,” said Hudson of the malls’ owners. “Meyer Lebovitz came to meet me several times and got up every time.”

Mall owners have another day in court on June 14th and are expected to report if they have been able to raise the money to renovate 57.86 acre mall property.

Those plans, outlined in a November 22 memo to Manatee County Building Services, see a 128,514-square-foot retail lifestyle center, 40,000-square-foot grocery store, 90,000-square-foot office space, and a total of three retail stores in front of 16,250-square-foot and over 500 Residential units.

“It is expected that the DeSoto Square Mall refurbishment project could take up to 10 years to fully expand and involve multiple builders / developers involved in different parts of the project,” said Kimley Horn, the company that designed the proposal Redevelopment project, wrote in the note.

“The proposed development requires the complete removal of the existing mall and infrastructure under the control of the applicant (excluding Sears) in order to accommodate the new development,” the memorandum reads.

Hudson is closely monitoring the bankruptcy process. If the mall owners can’t find funding for their redevelopment plans, the case is expected to be returned to foreclosure so the property can be sold.

If the property has foreclosure, “we’ll be fine,” said Hudson.

James A. Jones Jr. reports on business news for the Bradenton Herald. Drafted into the army in 1966, he served as a signal officer during the Vietnam War. He is the author of “Oh, Darling!” Decisions and struggles in the age of Sputnik, in the Vietnam War and in the new millennium. “
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