By RANDY PIERCE
CBL Properties, owners of St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights, says it has successfully completed a Chapter 11 reorganization, emerging from it with improved capital structure, greater financial flexibility and lowered capital costs to position the company for the pursuit of future growth.
St. Clair Square was opened in 1973 and has been the retail anchor of the City of Fairview Heights ever since, attracting shoppers from throughout Southern Illinois and the St. Louis area along with spurring additional business development in every direction from its location south of Interstate 64 near the intersection of Illinois Route 159 and Lincoln Trail/Lincoln Highway.
Stephen D. Lebovitz, chief executive officer of CBL, which also owns the shopping mall at Lindbergh Boulevard and Lemay Ferry Road in south St. Louis County, said the team representing the corporation has spent a year of focused effort on improving its cost structure, approach to capital investment and its portfolio of properties so that renewed cash flow is providing “significant shareholder value.”
Major components of the process included reducing overall interest expenses, thereby lowering borrowing costs and enhancing cash flow. He added that centers like St. Clair Square have experienced “a strong rebound in traffic, sales and tenant demand.”
“We are excited about the bright future we envision for our company,” Lebovitz added, per information shared by Fairview Heights Director of Economic Development Paul Ellis.
The debt total reduced by CBL is about $1.7 billion and the company has realized new support in the form of a secured term loan in an amount of $883.7 million, $455 million in new secured notes bearing 10 per cent interest and $150 million of new convertible secured notes at seven per cent which includes $50 million in new money.
Newly-issued shares in CBL began trading last month on the New York Stock Exchange. CBL is headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee and owns 105 properties totaling 63.9 million square feet of retail space in 24 states including 63 enclosed, outlet or open-air retail centers plus seven properties managed for third parties.
The reorganization action followed correspondence from a few months ago between Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky and Lebovitz about the process involved in the Chapter 11 proceedings.
Kupsky informed Lebovitz that the city was following what had been going on with CBL’s Chapter 11 reorganization with great interest and offered his congratulations to the company on its successful negotiation of the plan.
“CBL’s St. Clair Square,” Kupsky noted, “which dominates the retail market for the southern half of Illinois and is one of the top performing malls in the St. Louis region, is absolutely essential to our local economy.”
“Shortly after the City of Fairview Heights was incorporated 50 years ago, leaders here determined,” Kupsky explained in his letter to CBL, “that sales tax would be the lynchpin of our revenue stream and, accordingly, we do not (collect) and never have collected a municipal property tax. The result is that our city’s fortunes rise and fall with the success of your mall and the other centers and individual shops in our 3.5 million square feet of retail development.”
Further assuring CBL that St. Clair Square is the community’s highest economic priority, Kupsky said Ellis and Michael Hagen, the general manager at the local mall, have a close working relationship and that the city will “stand ready” to support its future development efforts.
Lebovitz responded that throughout the process and beyond, CBL’s operations will remain unchanged and that St. Clair Square continues to be a high priority for the company.
St. Clair Square is providing parking lot for the providing of services related to the coronavirus pandemic and has authorized the usage of some of its entrances for the Salvation Army’s annual holiday season bell-ringing fund-raising campaign.
At the most recent meeting of the Fairview Heights Business Alliance Commission, an appointed body which provides input into the status of economic development in the city, Hagen related that the sales totals at St. Clair Square through the end of September for 2021 were higher by 26 percent over what they reached for the same time period of 2019, discounting 2020 in this comparison analysis because of the profound negative impact of the pandemic on retail trade everywhere.
Cover photo: Food court at St. Clair Square. File.