Buyer: 'Mixed use' for Granite Run Mall

BET Investments, the real estate investment group owned by Toll Bros. cofounder Bruce E. Toll, plans "a walkable mixed-use project" at what is now the Granite Run Mall, which sprawls on a hillside above US 1 between Concordville and Media, after bidding $24 million to buy the property in an auction by Rockwood Realty Advisers, New York, BET president Michael Markman tells me. "We are very excited about the deal and its possibilities," he adds. The mall is 85% occupied, according to BET.

Banks represented by CW Capital Management had foreclosed on Granite Run in 2011 after national mall owner Simon Property Group and partner Macerich Co. stopped paying interest on $115 milllion they had borrowed to buy the place, figuring it wasn't worth that much anymore. Before the owners up it up for auction, CW tried hiring Washington-based mall manager Madison Marquette, which ran the much smaller Glen Eagle center on US 202 in Chadds Ford, to recruit "high-end" tenants to add to Sears, Boscov's, JCPenney, Kohl's, an AMC theater, Acme Markets and the smaller stores at Granite Run.

Plans to build more than 1 million sq ft of commercial and housing space at the former Franklin Mint site further north on US 1 have sparked some opposition from residents and a split between would-be developers Wolfson and Pennrose.

Betting big on a suburban revival after the 2008 recession all but stopped office and retail construction in the counties, BET has acquired a string of retail properties, including the former Waterloo Gardens in Exton, in recent weeks. Many of the developers who see possibilities out there are hoping to combine new apartments, for which there have been relatively strong demand, with updated office and retail space.