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University seals deal to buy Martinsburg Mall

April 07, 2010

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Mountain State University's purchase of Martinsburg Mall for its Martinsburg campus is final, the school announced Wednesday.

The private college based in Beckley, W.Va., agreed in October 2009 to pay $11 million in cash for the mall, a 550,000-square-foot retail center on 79 acres at 800 Foxcroft Ave., according to Berkeley County Circuit Court records.

The purchase also includes three outparcels that total about six acres, according to MSU's announcement.

"MSU's Martinsburg Campus enrollment has grown by over 30 percent each year in the last three years," MSU Martinsburg Executive Vice President Layne Diehl said in the news release.

"The mall seemed to be a natural fit for the university because it provides so many amenities for university students."

MSU's Martinsburg campus is currently about a mile away from Martinsburg Mall off Viking Way in a converted 45,000-square-foot outlet mall that the university purchased in 1999, according to the announcement.

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The university's bid for the financially troubled retail center property cleared a necessary legal hurdle last month when 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes signed an agreed order on March 12, appointing a special commissioner to consummate the sale of the property, according to court records.

The retail center had been placed in receivership of Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. in January 2009 after defaulting on debt payments in the fall of 2008, according to court records. The amount owed was $80.9 million, according to court records.

MSU said Wednesday that it began exploring the possibility of purchasing the mall last summer.

Diehl said in the news release that MSU plans to have the mall continue as an important retail center in Martinsburg and is working both with existing and potential retailers "to infuse new energy into the mall," which will be operated by a third-party management company.

About 45,000 feet, or 8 percent of the mall's total space, will be devoted to an integrated learning center aimed at bringing in new MSU students and increasing the foot traffic to stores and restaurants, the university said in its announcement.

The learning center, expected to be completed by fall of 2010, will include computer portals, small classrooms and conference space, study cubicles and a student service center. The center will be in the former Rex Electronics location, next to the Bon Ton department store.

"Students will be able to register, receive academic advising, seek assistance with financial aid, access research materials through the University's online library, study, and meet with faculty and staff members," according to the announcement.

New retail stores are expected in the coming months, along with additional food service and dining options, according to the news release. The school said Wednesday that it is eyeing the possibility of constructing student housing and athletic fields on the outparcels in the distant future.

Founded in 1933, MSU operates campuses in Center Township, Pa.; Mooresville, N.C.; Orlando, Fla.; and Washington, D.C. and Martinsburg and also has a site in Hickory, N.C., that currently serve more than 8,700 students per year, according to the news release.

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More information about MSU is on the Internet at http://www.mountainstate.edu.

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