Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 8, 2013

SALISBURY — Rowan commissioners authorized County Manager Gary Page to begin talks with Salisbury Mall owners regarding the purchase of the mall.
After meeting for a short time in closed session Monday night, Vice Chairman Craig Pierce motioned to have Page “negotiate with the buying group for the disposition of the mall.” The measure was approved unanimously.
“It means that the county manager will negotiate directly with the owners of the mall to see if they’re still interested in selling,” Sides said after the vote, “and to come back to us with an offer.”
Page said he expects to have a teleconference call with the mall owners sometime later this week. The county would then call a special meeting at some time in the coming weeks to consider the proposed price.
The county’s pursuit of the mall has been an up-and-down venture since announcing their interest in August.
The county joined in an online auction through for the property in September and thought the property had been lost to a top bid of $4.33 million before learning the bid fell through.
Vice Chairman Craig Pierce later questioned the auction’s legitimacy.
On Monday, Sides said he thinks the mall owners were bidding in the auction to drive up the price.
“We actually don’t think we were bidding against anybody but the owner,” he said. “We placed the first bid at $1.75 million. We think that’s the only valid bid that was placed.”
At the right price, Sides said, the mall “will serve a purpose for Rowan County that it can’t serve for any other client.”
“You got $4.88 cents a square foot. You don’t buy property that’s 27-years-old for that,” he said. “You don’t buy residences for $4.88 cents a square foot — and they’re nothing like commercial buildings.”
Barber, who has been critical of the mall in recent weeks, said he voted for the measure, but continues to oppose the mall option.
“There is nothing that has swayed my mind,” Barber said. “I’m still opposed to government getting involved in these types of projects. It’s best left to the private sector.”
Barber said the county plans to offer tax credits to the mall owners — meaning the mall owners could get federal and state tax credits in exchange for selling the property to a government agency, Barber said, which would be viewed as a charity or non-profit.
“I don’t care if it is a dollar,” Barber said. “It’s still millions of dollars of finance and human resources that will have to be expended to make this successful and we have proved with Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium that government shouldn’t be involved in these types of negotiations.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.