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Steeplegate Mall again contests property tax bill

  • The Steeplegate Mall sits empty on a May afternoon. The mall is seeking an abatement from the city of Concord. Jim Cole / AP file



Monitor staff
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Steeplegate Mall has again challenged its tax bill in Concord, claiming the mall is now worth less than one-fifth of its value eight years ago.

The mall has filed to the city’s board of assessors for an abatement, according to meeting minutes. For the tax year 2015, Concord said the shopping center was valued at just over $25 million. Steeplegate Mall, which is currently for sale, has proposed a $15 million assessment instead.

That figure is a stark contrast to the mall’s assessment for 2008, which was greater than $83 million.

“The other taxpayers in town are going to make up the burden,” Kathy Temchack, the city’s director of real estate assessments, told the Monitor last year, as the mall’s value was slipping. Temchack did not respond to a call for comment Tuesday.

Pearl Aznive, assistant general manager, declined to comment on the request for abatement or any interested buyers for the mall. Representatives for Colliers International, which is managing the property while it is on the market, did not respond to requests for comment.

But Aznive said newer tenants – like Hatbox Theatre in the former Coldwater Creek and VI Party Rentals bounce houses in the former Old Navy – have boosted traffic.

“Some of our other tenants were telling me that they were doing much better,” Aznive said, in particular those selling summer clothing.

Steeplegate Mall opened in 1990; Rouse Properties acquired the property in 2001, when General Growth Properties spun off 30 malls that were described as not among its top-performing sites. In the years since, the mall or its owner has repeatedly disputed its tax bill. Assessed property value is calculated in part using data on retail sales.

In 2009, the state Supreme Court sided with the city in the mall’s challenge to its 2004 tax bill. In 2012, the city agreed to pay back $231,000 on the mall’s 2005, 2006 and 2007 tax bills. And in 2014, Concord and Rouse settled four years of disputed property taxes; the city eventually repaid $1.6 million to the mall for the years between 2009 and 2012.

For the 2013 tax year, the mall’s value was set at $52 million – a compromise that came out of the settlement agreement between Concord and Rouse. The property was valued at $65 million, but records from the board of assessors show Rouse claimed the mall to be worth only $37 million that year.

“It’s a settlement,” City Solicitor Jim Kennedy said at the time. “It’s not necessarily what either party wanted, but it is a settlement.”

For 2014, the two parties agreed to a $30 million assessment. For 2015, the city has dropped the assessment again to $25.3 million. But minutes from the board of assessors show the mall has claimed its value to be even lower – just $15 million.

In the meantime, Rouse shed the mall by purposefully skipping a $47 million balloon payment on the loan. The bank officially took over ownership last year, and is now trying to find a new owner. 

If the board denies the request for abatement, Steeplegate Mall could appeal to the state’s Board of Tax and Land Appeals or in superior court. 

A full list of requested abatements is available in minutes for the board of assessors, which can be found online at concordnh.gov under the Boards and Commissions tab.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321, mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter
@megan_e_doyle.)