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ONCE SAIPAN’S LUXURY MALL, NOW UNWANTED La Fiesta Mall is ‘dilapidated and abandoned’

By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 10, 2009)—The once luxurious La Fiesta Mall that was home to high-end imported goods is now dilapidated and abandoned — and unwanted.

Press Secretary Charles P. Reyes Jr. said the government wants the private sector to take over La Fiesta but only one entity responded to the request for proposals.

"This proposal is still being reviewed and no decision has been made yet, to my knowledge," Reyes said. "The administration wants to make this property productive again and appreciates the Legislature’s support."

The proposal came from Bridge Capital LLC which seeks to operate video lottery games at the former mall in San Roque.

The previous administration acquired the mall from Japan Airlines’ sister companies in 2004 for $7.5 million to serve as an extended campus for Northern Marianas College’s Pacific Gateway Project, which was supposed to bring in international students to the island.

The project never materialized.

The CNMI paid $3.5 million for the mall, and will pay the remaining $4 million until 2023 through annual payments of $200,000.

When the government bought the mall, it was still earning $80,000 in monthly rental income.

Reyes said the yearly payments are a burden for the cash-strapped government.

The government attempted to use the mall by having some of its agencies, like the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. and the Department of Public Works, open their offices there, but maintaining the property’s power and water supply was costly.

Most of the former mall’s buildings have been vandalized, their windows and glass walls were broken.

The walls are filled with graffiti and the flower pots that used to adorn the mall have been smashed.

Signs and labels from high-end brand stores were the only evidence left that the mall was once a thriving commercial area frequented by tourists and residents.

Convicted felons who have to perform community service are sometimes assigned to the area.

On Wednesday, at least three inmates were seen mowing the grass at the mall with Department of Corrections officers observing them.

In 2006, the Fitial administration said it received four inquiries from foreign developers interested in acquiring the property.

Apparently, they are no longer interested.

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