Concerns over the new owner of Tulsa's Eastland Mall

Tuesday, February 28th 2006, 10:22 am
By: News On 6

A Tulsa woman who did some digging found some troubling information on the new owner of Eastland Mall.

Jennifer Weaver lives near the mall and says she got curious when North Carolina businessman Haywood Whichard bought it back in December.

As News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg explains, she fears things will only get worse for the struggling mall.

Jennifer Weaver says she started researching the background of Eastland Mall owner Haywood Whichard simply because she lives near Eastland Mall. "I had no idea what I was going to come across." She was dismayed when she found Whichard had bought many other struggling malls over the years including one in Augusta, Georgia, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Indianapolis, Indiana, Jennings, Missouri and Ogden, Utah which was eventually demolished, along with many others.

City Councilor Jim Mautino, whose district includes Eastland Mall, says from what he can tell Whichard never tries to revitalize his properties. "Just allows the mall to deteriorate and deteriorate until the city has no other choice but to condemn it or eminent domain and take it over."

In fact, Whichard has developed a reputation around the country as deliberately forcing cities' hands. Though he denies that. By phone he told the News on 6, he doesn't want to go through condemnation because it takes forever.

He says it's not his fault east Tulsa was in decline long before he got there and he makes no bones about the fact that he's not putting any money into the property. I'm not a developer, he says. He says he just went in and bought a property. And now let somebody else figure out what to do with it.

Jim Mautino: "I'm not faulting the man, he's a businessman and this is how he makes his money. What we're trying to head off is keep this mall from deteriorating to the point where the city has to take it over, cost the citizens money."

Whether or not you think it's ethical. Weaver says it's detrimental. “It's our future economic development, It has a great impact on the eastside economic development."

Not all of Whichard's malls have been bought by cities. Some he sold to other companies and It's not clear how much he profits. In some cases, he's appeared to lose money. In fact, he told us that he's lost a lot of money on some deals.