Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Fed at The Crossroads and a Memory

I tweeted this link earlier about how the landlord of the local Crossroads Mall is Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke:
Price Edwards is listing the mall for mall owner Maiden Lane LLC, an entity of Maiden Lane Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities Trust. It wound up with the mall after Arkansas-based Midwest Mall Properties LLC lost it to foreclosure late last year.

Maiden Lane is a "special purpose vehicle" created in April 2008 by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to facilitate the merger of Bear Stearns Cos. Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Maiden Lane owns Crossroads Mall because former owner Macerich Co. refinanced $61.2 million with Bear Stearns in 2006. But since Maiden Lane is a creature of the Federal Reserve, it was the Fed that took title when Maiden Lane paid $11.24 million for the property at a sheriff's sale April 30.

Price Edwards, citing a confidentiality agreement, declined to comment.

Reuters columnist Matthew Goldstein reported Oct. 7 that the Fed is in court in New York trying to recoup its losses on Crossroads from former owners, arguing that they signed a personal loan guarantee with Bear Stearns.

Goldstein called Bernanke "a reluctant landlord."

Read the whole thing for a good analysis of the mall as an example of what the bailout has bought. But I want to spend a minute of two talking about the mall itself.

When I was a teenager, the newly built mall seemed far away and exotic from the life we were living in northwest Oklahoma City. It was much newer and nicer than the older Shepherd Mall on 23rd street and the strange outdoor mall that was Penn Square before it was renovated. Going to Crossroads was more like a journey and I remember going there with a friend on "Senior Ditch Day" back in high school and the sense of a certain kind of freedom that could be had without leaving home. A few years later, I'd work in a clothing store there and meet Clara and, well, the rest as they say, is history.

Crossroads was a regular part of our early married lives - we lived not far away and Penn Square wasn't yet quite what it is today. Rachel came along and for those cold winter months when she was a newborn it was the perfect, sheltered outing to get her, and her weary parents, out and about for a few hours. Gradually our routine took us to Penn Square and when Emily came along we took her there for spins in her stroller rather than Crossroads. The lure of the shiny and new thing, I guess. On occasion, though, we'd find ourselves at Crossroads and while Clara took care of the shopping chores, I'd take the girls and play with them in the center stage area where we could play a pretty good game of hide and seek and jump around on the stairs or run up and down the ramps. Good times.

Time moved on and so did we. The girls got older and, as the linked story says, the mall faded as crime grew and the big stores pulled out. Our last trip there was in 2007 to pick over the bones of Macy's as it began its retreat. I took one last spin through the mall and found only ghosts. There's the shop where Clara and I met. There's where we used to play. There's the Sbarro's where we used to eat. Now it's up for sale and no one but the government is really interested in it. That's too bad. It's a great location, the intersection of two major interstates, and there's no real big mall presence in South Oklahoma City. But that's not the future of retail; the move is to the big box stores and shoppers can find that just a couple miles west and a couple miles south of the mall. Crossroads' time may be over but it will always be a part of our family history, no matter its fate.

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