Originally created 01/09/98

Owners urge sale of mall



AIKEN -- A change in ownership for the Aiken Mall apparently will be a friendly affair.

Three days after Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. filed a foreclosure action for $29 million, the mall's owners have asked the court to go along with the request to sell the property.

Attorney Frampton Toole III, representing the Aiken Mall Limited Partnership, filed the Pennsylvania-based partnership's one-sentence response to the lawsuit Thursday in Aiken County Court of Common Pleas.

Mr. Toole said matters should proceed smoothly with both parties in agreement.

"It doesn't take long, as long as there are no issues in controversy," he said. "Normally with both parties in agreement, it takes 30 to 45 days to be concluded."

He referred questions about the lawsuit to George Wolfe, chief legal counsel for Zamias Services, which owns and manages Aiken Mall through the Aiken Mall Limited Partnership. Zamias Services is based in Johnstown, Pa.

A phone message left on Mr. Wolfe's answering machine wasn't immediately returned Thursday.

New York-based Metropolitan, which holds the mortgage on the mall property, filed for foreclosure Monday. According to the suit, the owners broke a 1990 mortgage agreement by failing to pay in full the payment due Oct. 1. The loan note states that monthly payments are $242,830.

The loan agreement gives the insurance company the right to ask for full repayment of the loan in the event any payment is missed and isn't paid up within five days.

In their response, the mall owners said they admitted the allegations made in the complaint and asked the court to proceed with foreclosure.

Circuit Judge William Keesley appointed attorney James Verenes to serve as Special Master-in-Equity in the case after Master-in-Equity Robert Smoak disqualified himself.

No reason was given for the disqualification.

The Aiken Mall opened in 1989 with anchor stores Belk's Department Store, J.C. Penney, Sears, Brendle's Stores Inc., and Phar-Mor, Inc. Phar-Mor and Brendle's have since closed.