Hy-Vee stands behind plans to build or renovate; Mall owners owe $344K in taxes

Published 10:58 am Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hy-Vee reiterated Thursday it will move ahead with plans to build a new store or renovate its current space, regardless of what happens with the stalled Oak Park Mall negotiations.

“Hy-Vee Inc. is committed to the Austin community. If the Oak Park Mall redevelopment project doesn’t move forward, we will return to our original plans to expand and renovate our current Hy-Vee store location,” Hy-Vee’s Assistant Vice President of Communications Tara Deering-Hansen wrote in an email to the Herald Thursday morning.

The statement from Hy-Vee Inc. echoed comments made by Austin Hy-Vee General Manager Todd Hepler to the Herald on Wednesday, when he said he was confident the company would still work to improve the Austin store.

Email newsletter signup

“We just want everybody to know, no matter what happens, the people of Austin will still get a new store, whether it’s at the mall or in its current location,” he said.
The Austin Port Authority terminated a purchase agreement to buy the mall site earlier this week, halting the city’s plans to buy Oak Park Mall for Hy-Vee to build a new 60,000- to 90,000-square-foot grocery store at the site. The port authority was unable to reach amended lease agreements with Younkers, CineMagic 7 and Anytime Fitness or an amended occupancy agreement with Shopko, which owns its own building, by a deadline to finalize the talks.
Martin Graff and Martin Goldman, the owners behind Oak Park Mall Ltd. Partnership, did not grant requests to extend the deadline and continue negotiations. Mall ownership could offer an extension, which would reopen negations; however, as of press time, an extension had not been granted.
Deering-Hanson praised Austin Port Authority and city officials for their work in finding a solution to the issues.
“We hope that the issues can be resolved and that the proposed redevelopment can move forward,” she wrote.
She said Hy-Vee will not negotiate directly with mall ownership, as talks would encounter the same issues.
Oak Park Mall, which came within days of tax forfeiture in 2013, currently owes more than $344,800 in unpaid property taxes on several property lots — including the main mall building and Younkers — from taxes not paid in 2013 and 2014. If left unpaid, the lots would forfeit to the state of Minnesota in May 2017.
Oak Park Mall Ltd. Partnership also has a five-year payment plan in place to pay back roughly $19,700 in unpaid taxes on two other lots.
Graff and Goldman didn’t return calls for comment.