Wolfchase Mall Loses Appeal of Higher Property Value

By Andy Meek

The most expensive property in Shelby County got even pricier in 2009.

The Shelby County Board of Equalization today adopted a $150 million value for Wolfchase Galleria, a 15 percent increase over the mall’s 2008 appraisal of $130 million.

The valuation is significant for Shelby County because Wolfchase also is the county’s largest single property taxpayer. Wolfchase lies in the city of Memphis, so it pays city and county property taxes.

Its combined tax city-county tax bill in 2009 was $4.46 million.

The board’s vote today came after Wolfchase – built in 1997 and occupying 45 acres at the corner of U.S. 64 and Germantown Parkway – appealed its 2009 reappraisal value.

Every parcel in the county was reappraised last year, resulting in updated values identified by the Shelby County Assessor of Property. That process happens every four years and is intended to capture changes in the local real estate market.

Complicating this year’s reappraisal was the recession that clobbered the residential real estate market and made life difficult for many commercial property owners.

The assessor’s office said Wolfchase is worth about $154 million.

The mall, which is owned by real estate company Simon Property Group, argued the mall’s value should be closer to $124 million.

Memphis attorney Andrew Raines, representing Wolfchase in its appeal, pointed to several factors supporting a reduced value. He noted the recession has wrecked havoc in the retail industry.

Wolfchase recently lost a few tenants that have been in place almost since the mall’s inception, one of which is Pottery Barn.

“If your mall cannot keep Pottery Barn open, that’s a sign there are issues in the mall,” Raines told the board.

Pottery Barn and Banana Republic – two longtime tenants at Wolfchase – both closed in the past couple of weeks. However, those spaces already have been re-leased, with signs posted at both spaces naming new tenants that are “coming soon.”

Signs announce Pottery Barn is being replaced with Charming Charlie, a women’s accessories store.

Aerie, a brand of American Eagle, will fill the Banana Republic space.

That’s in line with one of the major arguments Greg Moody, director of appraisal in the assessor’s office, put before the board today – that vacancies at the mall are almost non-existent.