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— The fate of the troubled University Mall in midtown Little Rock has taken a turn that bodes well for the retail property built in 1967, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has learned.

The land beneath the mall has been sold to SPC Park Avenue Limited Partnership led by Jim Strode of Dallas for an undisclosed sum. Strode was the developer of the recently opened Midtowne Little Rock retail center near University Mall.

The new partnership will redevelop the property, according to a source close to the deal. Simon Property has managed the mall and is appealing a lawsuit ruling in a case that has dragged on in federal court for three years.

The William L. Patton Jr. Family Limited Partnership and the Southern Real Estate & Financial Co. sold the 27 acres beneath the mall and another acre with a convenience store on the corner of Markham and McKinley.

Once the transaction was closed, litigation against Simon Property Group Inc. was dropped, according to the source.

Simon had said previously that it wanted to purchase the mall and redevelop it with an expansive mixed-use, open-air development, including retail, residential and office space. Simon declined to comment Friday on its plans.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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