HOLLADAY — It's the height of Utah's construction season, but the only work being done on the former Cottonwood Mall site is removal of massive thistles and weeds along a nearby creek.
And that situation is not likely to change anytime soon, General Growth Properties Inc. spokesman Kris Longson told the Holladay City Council on Thursday.
"I wish I had further insights," said Longson, who represents the Chicago-based company that owns the mall property. "The market hasn't changed."
General Growth cannot move forward with its "European village" until consumer confidence returns in the housing and retail sectors, the mall spokesman said.
Plans call for the 57-acre lot to become a bustling village with everything from high-end condominiums to boutique stores and offices. Salt Lake County, Holladay and Granite School District have pledged up to $92 million in property-tax breaks for the massive project at the corner of 4800 South and Highland Drive.
According to legal agreements put in place about two years ago, the lot would revert to general commercial zoning if the mall didn't have building permits by now. On Thursday, Longson asked the Holladay City Council to find that General Growth had taken enough action since then to retain its mixed-use zoning. Although no building permits have been issued, General Growth has spent thousands of dollars on demolition and impact fees, Holladay city attorney Craig Hall told the council.
"My proposal would be just to remove the time frame of reverting back to commercial," Longson said.
The council could not legally make any decisions during Thursday's work session, but it agreed to consider a resolution later this month on making the mixed-use zoning permanent.
Councilman Barry Topham voiced concern over giving the mall company free rein.
"I'd like to have a gun to the head of (General Growth Properties) so they do something with it," Topham said. "I would not like to see the weeds growing for the next 10 years."
General Growth is struggling in each of its 200-plus malls around the country, Longson said. The problem extends to newly renovated Fashion Place Mall in Murray, where many retailers have pulled out of leases, creating vacant space. Recovery could take, "two, five, 10 years," he said.
Meanwhile, the mall developer is hoping to lease a T.G.I. Friday's restaurant on the mall site that was vacated early this year. For now, the white and blue building remains boarded up on the property's northwest corner.
Along with the 5-foot purple thistles, the shuttered shop is a lonely symbol of the wait ahead for both city and developer.
"We're keeping our fingers crossed," Longson said.
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