Florida firm to buy Park Plaza mall in Little Rock

Park Plaza mall in Little Rock is shown in this March 21, 2023 photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Aaron Gettinger)
Park Plaza mall in Little Rock is shown in this March 21, 2023 photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Aaron Gettinger)

Boca Raton, Fla., real estate company Second Horizon Capital is lined up to buy Little Rock’s Park Plaza mall from investors’ trustee Deutsche Bank.

Information about the sale price was not available Tuesday; both Deutsche Bank and Second Horizon executives declined to comment.

Second Horizon describes itself on its website as an “impact real estate company” that reimagines “large-scale, underutilized commercial properties.”

That framing could describe Park Plaza, which like many in the United States has suffered from the erosion of retail stores that began in the 2010s and escalated because of the covid-19 pandemic’s economic effects.

At least 10 of Park Plaza’s more than 60 storefronts are vacant — a higher percentage than the 5.7% national shopping center vacancy rate real estate consultancy Cushman & Wakefield measured for the fourth quarter of 2022.

The local vacancies are disproportionately in Park Plaza’s food court. The mall is anchored by Dillard’s, with two separate footprints. Dillard's owns those properties, separate from the mall. Stalwart mall retailers like Victoria’s Secret, American Eagle, Auntie Anne’s pretzels and Bath & Body Works are present, alongside a number of fast fashion outposts like H&M and Forever 21.

Park Plaza also hosts a large number of non-traditional stores, like ones that sell cell phone accessories alongside repairs as well as a some downmarket clothing retailers. The mall has no upmarket stores selling luxury goods. North Little Rock’s McCain Mall has a similar mix of retailers, though with more restaurants.

On its website, Second Horizon says the company targets assets in places with a strong demographic trajectory, good locations and a potential cooperation with local governments. It writes that the goal is reinvigoration of properties, with their original purposes in mind. According to its LinkedIn account, it was established in 2021. Multiple news organizations have reported that it acquired an open-air Richmond, Va., shopping center in April 2022.

Park Plaza opened in 1960, during the golden age of American mall establishment, and was originally open-air. (The mall era is pegged as having begun four years earlier, when a fully-enclosed mall opened in suburban Minneapolis.)

Park Plaza’s former competitor, the fully enclosed University Mall, opened across West Markham Street in 1967; 20 years later, Park Plaza went through a multi-million-dollar rehabilitation, itself becoming an indoor mall with an expanded square footage.

There are several explanations for U.S. malls’ decline, from an overabundance of retail space to changing consumer habits.

The shift to mixed-use space in malls is ongoing in Little Rock, as many storefronts in the luxury Pavilion in the Park, which opened in 1985, are now occupied by offices. Upmarket malls are doing better than those with a more diverse range of retailers; declining and dead malls have seen a proliferation of non-retail tenants and total site redevelopment. University Mall, for instance, had long been in decline before it closed in 2007 and was demolished the next year.

Park Plaza itself went through foreclosure in 2021, when Deutsche Bank acquired it from CBL Properties in Chattanooga, Tenn., for $100,000.

Arkansas Business first reported news of Park Plaza’s potential sale to Second Horizon.

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