In November 2024, JCPenney's lease with the city will expire, as Palestine officials refused to extend it in May.
Since then, the store's corporate management has submitted dozens of maintenance requests. City officials are wondering why.
“They're asking for improvements from everything from the parking lot, to landscaping, to flower-beds they've installed,” Mayor Steve Presley told the Herald-Press Wednesday.
“We're not responsible for improvements they took it upon themselves to make.”
During the June 10 council meeting, Presley said the store was trying to paint the city as an absentee landlord.
Roughly three decades ago, JCPenney leased its spot in the Palestine Mall for just over $8,000 a month – the same rate it pays today.
On Wednesday, Presley said restrictions Penney's placed in the lease 30 years ago are holding up the mall's sale.
“If JCPenney's were to go bankrupt, that problem would be solved – and add value to the mall overnight,” he said.
Presley noted the barrage of maintenance requests are coming from the corporate offices in Plano, and not from local management, with whom the city council has always had good relations.
“The city has always fixed what's needed to be fixed,” he said. “Now, though, they [JCPenney corporate] are asking us to do things that aren't our job.”
Calls to JCPenney were not returned.
Under the lease, Presley said, JCPenney maintains control of the parking lot, and all land in direct view of the storefront. Nothing can be built within sight of the store without the Plano-based retail chain's permission.
“In some cases, they have demanded direct payment before allowing anyone to build on land within view of the store,” Presley said.
Public Works Director Tim Perry said his office has received more than a dozen requests from JCPenney's in the past two weeks. Some requests, he said, are duplicates.
“If we need to get quotes for repairs, they resend the request, if it takes more than a day,” he said.
One request was for pothole repair.
“We're going to sell the mall,” Presley said. “It makes no sense to spend money on parking lot renovation, when the new owner is more than likely going to tear it up, anyway.
“With the amount of business JCPenney gets, there's plenty of customer parking available.”
Perry said he the city will continue to fulfill its obligations to JCPenney to make necessary repairs in a timely manner.
“We need them to understand pothole repairs and painting requests are not at the top of our priority list,” Perry said. “Our residents are dealing with similar and more pressing issues. They come first.”