FOX 35 Investigates Seminole Towne Center ownership group

The Seminole Towne Center in Sanford was closed without power Friday for the second day. 

Sanford city leaders said they spoke with mall ownership on Friday and were told by Kohan Retail Investment Group that payment would come Friday. The city told FOX 35 News that it expects power to be restored over the weekend.

The city called the closing "regrettable" and said it "understands the impact on small businesses at the mall."

One of those small businesses hurt by the abrupt mall closure is Spirit Rizing. Ginger Cleland is the owner of the holistic clinic. She said she felt cheated.

"It’s very frustrating because that’s my livelihood," Cleland said. "I’ve had to refund people today that we’re potential clients to come in, but they can’t."

Cleland estimated the closure would cost her thousands in business since she cannot honor any appointments and had to cancel some upcoming ones because she said she had not been given a date for the mall's reopening by management.

Cleland said she just wanted to get inside to get her stuff out of the mall, but she couldn't.

"I don’t think it’s fair that we pay our rent to expect lights on, water on, garbage pickup, those kinds of things, and then we come into work, and there’s no power," Cleland said. "And then they’re giving us the runaround. Maybe today. Maybe Monday. What is it?"

Elev8 Fun rented portable lights to shine on the parking lot since the mall's lighting wasn't turned on. On Friday, Dillard's joined Elev8 and set up three portable lights at each exterior entrance to keep employees safe when leaving at night.

FPL did not specify how much the Towne Center owes on its electric bill but said power would be turned back on as soon as the payment cleared.

In a statement shared with FOX 35 News on Thursday, FPL said shutting off power was a last-resort measure.

"FPL works with all customers, including the Seminole Towne Center in Sanford, to help them pay their electric bill, including payment plans," FPL said. "While FPL doesn’t take lightly the decision to turn off anyone’s power, we must treat all customers fairly, given unpaid electric bills are ultimately paid for by all our customers in the form of higher rates."

Kohan Retail Investment Group is based in New York but owns 45 malls nationwide. Two of them are in Florida with the other in Vero Beach.

FOX 35 found a slew of headlines from recent months that said malls owned by KRIG in Iowa and Kansas had power cut off because of unpaid bills.

On Thursday, FOX 32 Chicago reported that a Kohan-owned mall in suburban Chicago would close for good next month.

Cleland said the mall isn't holding up its end of the deal when it can't afford to keep the lights on.

"There’s other people that we’re paying our rent to that they’re taking care of their families or whatever, but what about all the mom and pops inside the mall besides me," Cleland said. "I’m about integrity and character, and I don’t see that."

This is not the first example of money troubles for the Seminole Towne Center. Last summer, FOX 35 reported on more than $800,000 owed by the mall in property taxes.

There were plans to redevelop part of the mall into apartments, but the developer, Picerne Real Estate Group, said Friday those plans were not right to follow through with. Picerne is still working on redeveloping the Oviedo Mall in Orange County.

Sanford city leaders plan a meeting with mall owners next week in Miami. The city said it's "to discuss current opportunities and will help expedite any action needed by the city."

"The City has been in frequent contact with the mall ownership about redevelopment opportunities and immediately reached out to them when the power was turned off," the city said in a statement. "The City also contacted FPL directly to help facilitate payment by the mall and a quick restoration of power. As soon as payment is made, FPL will process a reconnect order."

Seminole County officials told FOX 35 the county's economic development team has reached out to the City of Sanford "to help provide assistance to the tenants."

As of 11p.m. Friday, the parking lot lights were still dark.