HAZELWOOD, Mo. (KMOV.com) - A church that provides services for children with special needs is among the tenants being kicked out due to the closure of the St. Louis Outlet Mall in Hazelwood.
Inside a former bookstore, Pastor Greg Bruce preaches to Hope Church, a growing congregation every Sunday. The church encompasses 14 storefronts inside the St. Louis Outlet Mall.
Earlier in May, Bruce received a lease termination notice and was told the church needed to be out by mid-June. All tenants were told they needed to be out by June 17.
Making matters worse, Bruce says the church entered a 15-year lease agreement in 2018. Because of the agreement, the church invested money in the mall.
"We have $1 million into this project, $1 million. Had to do everything, bring everything up to code, fire sprinklers, the HVAC systems," Bruce said.
Bruce runs a program for children with special needs. Once a month, parents drop off their kids for a program called "Buddy Break." The children do not need to attend Hope, it is open to anyone in the community.
The next "Buddy Break" is scheduled for five days after the church is supposed to vacate.
When asked what he would do if there is a padlock on the door on June 17, Bruce said, "We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there."
The church received a termination letter from St. Louis Retail Outlet LLC. Their contact information goes back to Namdar Realty in New York State. News 4 made multiple attempts to contact Namdar Realty but did not receive a response.
Bruce said he has also had trouble getting a response from Namdar Realty.
Namdar Realty owns about 100 malls nationwide and is known for buying distressed malls. In Florida, the company was sued for allegedly failing to maintain a mall and was labeled a "slumlord" in the lawsuit.
The City of Hazelwood told News 4 they had "no foreknowledge that such notices were being delivered."
The city calls it a "private matter between the owners as landlord and their tenants."
A local group is working to buy the mall to convert the sire into a youth sports complex. Negotiations are ongoing but a representative with Big Sports Properties says a deal has not been struck.
Bruce says the church has lawyers trying to fight their eviction.
UPDATE: June 13 at 3:55 p.m.:
Bruce says mall management sent a letter saying the outlet mall will not close next week