Eastland Mall Loses Bid For Lower Tax Bill; State Appeal Could Be Next | WGLT

Eastland Mall Loses Bid For Lower Tax Bill; State Appeal Could Be Next

Jan 7, 2020

UPDATED 3:55 p.m. | McLean County’s Board of Review has partially denied an Eastland Mall owner request to further lower its assessed value, and therefore its tax bill. The decision sets up a likely appeal at the state level.

The owners, CBL Properties, argued the government assessor's latest $32 million market value for the mall was still about $11 million too high. During a Board of Review hearing in December, CBL pointed to widespread vacancies and falling rent revenue in requesting the lower value. If CBL had won, its annual property tax bill would have fallen by around $308,595.

Instead, the Board of Review agreed with the $32 million value, Chief County Assessment Officer Bob Kahman confirmed Tuesday. (The value had already been lowered from $40 million at initial assessment, down to $32 million. That means the mall's property taxes will still be reduced—just not by as much.)

“We are pleased with the decision by the Board of Review as we believe it to be fair and appropriate,” said District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly, whose school board had opposed CBL’s request. District 87 is the largest beneficiary of tax dollars from Eastland Mall.

It’s unclear if CBL will continue to fight its assessment and appeal the Board of Review’s decision to the state’s Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB), which can be a lengthy process. At the Dec. 4 hearing, CBL’s attorney, Jim Regan, said his client would indeed appeal the decision if the board agreed to $32 million. 

Regan did not return a request for comment Tuesday. 

The mall has lost four of its five anchor stores in recent years, and it’s now nearly 60% vacant. District 87 has argued that CBL has not invested enough in the property or made real efforts to lure new tenants. Bloomington city officials have said CBL has not been a good partner in redevelopment efforts.

Last month District 87 attorney John Pratt noted the City of Bloomington Township assessor has already considered financial challenges at the mall, reducing the mall’s value from $56 million to $32 million in just two years. CBL’s "self-serving" $21 million figure understated the value of what’s vacant and could someday generate revenue again, he said.

“While I do not know if ownership will appeal this decision, my hope is that they would rather look to find ways to increase the value of the property as it sits on the most valuable piece of real estate in the county,” Reilly said Tuesday.

CBL paid $1.1 million in property taxes for the 2018 tax year.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the reduction in assessed value for the mall.