• Opened: 1972
• Size: 823,000 square feet
• Occupants: About 60 specialty shops and restaurants
• Renovations: 1991, 1997
• Leased space: 91 percent (includes outparcels)
With Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates Properties Inc.'s agreement to buy Northgate Mall for $11.5 million in cash, company co-founder Charles Lebovitz is coming full circle.
He said Thursday that another company with which his family was affiliated developed Northgate Mall in 1972 on what he recalled had been a cornfield.
"It had a terrific opening," Lebovitz said about the Highway 153 and Hixson Pike mall. "Personally, I actually signed every lease for every store that went into Northgate. I have a real close affinity to Northgate."
That being said, CBL's chairman added that the new Northgate deal makes financial sense for CBL.
"Honestly, the economics of the purchase were very compelling," he said.
CBL, one of the biggest mall and shopping center companies in the country and the owner of Hamilton Place, bought Northgate from General Growth Properties in an online auction Wednesday.
According to the Hamilton County Assessor of Property, Northgate Mall is appraised at $30.1 million. Charles Lebovitz said CBL's agreement to buy the mall includes assuming no debt.
CBL anticipates closing the deal by Oct. 6, and company officials said they plan to breathe new life into the mall.
Stephen Lebovitz, CBL's chief executive and Charles Lebovitz' son, said plans may include the addition of junior anchor stores, restaurants and repurposing a nearby community center.
"This transaction represents a unique and special opportunity for us to grow our presence in our hometown," he said.
CBL officials said the company envisions creating a destination that will better serve the area north of the Tennessee River while complementing Hamilton Place's position as the dominant fashion outlet in the city.
"It will be a more important part of the Chattanooga retail market," Charles Lebovitz said.
The mall has anchor stores in Belk, JCPenney and Sears. CBL's chairman said a Belk official indicated recently its store is experiencing double-digit sales growth in 2011.
The senior Lebovitz also said Northgate and Hamilton Place are viewed differently in the market.
Hamilton Place, with more than 1 million square feet and located off Interstate 75, is seen as one of the leading regional malls and a flagship property, he said. Northgate complements Hamilton Place but doesn't compete with it, he said.
While there aren't any plans to remodel Northgate at this time, "that will come about" as the property is redeveloped and gains new stores, he said.
The mall was built in 1972 by Arlen Shopping Center Group and is currently 91 percent leased. Chicago-based GGP acquired the mall in 2000, but filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
CBL owns, holds interests in or manages 158 properties nationally.