BY DANIELLE PORTTEUS
The Monroe Factory Shops, formerly Horizon Outlet Center located at 14750 LaPlaisance Rd., was acquired this week by a Georgia holding company and one of the partners has Monroe ties. Chris Harter, 32, a former Monroe resident and partner in Mazer Holdings, confirmed the purchase Friday. Mr. Harter, a 2001 graduate of Monroe High School and a graduate of the University of Michigan, said he witnessed the deterioration of the buildings there.
“ When I have come back to Monroe and get off at Exit 11, I was mad at how things got to be that bad,” he said. “I talked with my partners in Atlanta. They didn’t know much about Monroe, but they came to see it and understood the need to develop it and made the decision to give it a shot.”
The company purchased the property for $ 695,000 from Amicus Management, the court-appointed receiver for the 22- acre property, after working with local Realtor Christopher Marino from Coldwell Banker. The complex has a few stores: Motor City Fireworks, Uniform Outlet and Friends of Companion Animals.
The outlet mall was built in 1987 yet has struggled to gain and keep tenants in the last decade.
Mr. Harter said the plans for the facility include a $2 million investment. “ We are going to do a full renovation and make it better than what it was before,” he said. “ We liked to see more shopping and walkability and hold more events there.”
He thanked the county and Monroe Township officials for their assistance with the project.
Earlier in the week, Mr. Harter announced the purchase on a Facebook post, which had been shared more than 1,000 times and liked by nearly 5,000 people. More than 600 people had commented about the acquisition. “ Today, I am proud to say my partners and I are the new owners (of) the Manu-facturers Marketplace,” Mr. Harter wrote. “ Who knows — we may fail — we may succeed but whether we make 1 dollar on that unit or not, I decided months ago when I was ashamed at getting off the exit for my hometown that I would try and do my part. “ He said he was surprised by the response his post received.
“I never thought it would receive that kind of attention,” the investor said.
Growing up, Mr. Harter remembers the outlet mall’s good days. “It was a great, thriving place,” he said. “I remember saving up all of my money to go to the Nike store.”
Tim Lake, president of the Monroe County Business Development Corp., said the sale of the property is good news. “It is very nice and it is great news that Chris directed the project this way,” Mr. Lake said. “ This company has some major projects and they have a lot of opportunity to spend money and I’m glad they chose to spend it here.”
Mr. Harter said the group plans to begin some of the leg work this year with the majority of efforts ramping up in 2016. He said a “drastic improvement” is coming to the facility and plans to include both local businesses and national businesses in the mix along with restaurants. “ We have already been talking to many different businesses,” Mr. Harter said. “ This is a very viable space. We want to restore great pride in the community and have something off Exit 11 that people will be proud of.”