Gov. Eloy S. Inos said the former La Fiesta Mall is up for grabs for anyone interested in developing it into a commercial operation that does not necessarily involve any form of gaming as previously planned. At the same time, House minority leader George Camacho (R-Saipan) prefiled yesterday a bill providing temporary 50 percent tax cut for businesses that will use a space at the former mall in San Roque.
“We have an open RFP [request for proposals] for that. [It’s] still valid. We would be happy to talk about any potential development of La Fiesta,” the governor told Saipan Tribune in an interview.
The CNMI government has been spending $200,000 every year to pay for the La Fiesta land lease yet it has not been earning any dime from it since at least 2004 when the mall closed.
The mall has been sitting idle for almost a decade, but not necessarily beyond repair.
Recently, the governor, Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider, Cabinet members, and other government personnel cleared the property, to make the former mall noticeable again to tourists and residents.
Camacho, a lawmaker from Precinct 4 where the former La Fiesta Mall is located, prefiled yesterday House Bill 18-114, hoping to entice private entities to do business at La Fiesta.
This comes a few days after Camacho and fellow Precinct 4 lawmaker Rep. Christopher Leon Guerrero (Cov-Saipan), along with the governor, led the unveiling of “welcome” signs in Tanapag and San Roque on Friday.
Camacho said that ideas have been proposed and considered since 2009 to revitalize La Fiesta and turn it into a revenue-generating property as well as help maintain the property’s value.
He said it is “reasonable” and “appropriate” to provide incentives—through tax reduction—for businesses that use business space at La Fiesta, “enticing businesses to utilize space so that the former mall can be used as the revenue-generating property it was intended to be.”
Camacho told Saipan Tribune yesterday that he did not have any discussion with the governor prior to prefiling his bill but “we can always work together to revive La Fiesta.”
Under his bill, any business entity that uses space at La Fiesta for their business may qualify for a 50-percent reduction in the tax imposed by 4 CMC section 1301.
In order to qualify for the tax cut, the income must be from a business entity located at La Fiesta for at least one tax year prior to the tax credit assessment.
To obtain the tax reduction, the employer must furnish to the Division of Revenue and Taxation a properly documented compliance letter that the Department of Commerce has issued, certifying that the business entity complies with the Act’s provision.
Commerce shall impose a fee for the issuance of the compliance letter pursuant to its regulations, the bill says.
The tax cut, however, expires two years after the issuance of the business qualifying space in La Fiesta Mall or upon the business being sold, closed, or suspended, whichever comes first.
The governor, meanwhile, said any proposed development of the former La Fiesta Mall does not necessarily involve any form of gaming such as the video lottery that was initially planned.
“Initially, that’s what we wanted to do, to basically use the video lottery as catalyst for bringing back the La Fiesta alive. Apparently there’s a lot of complications there… the facility is not conducive [to that activity],” he said.
Inos said that any tourism-related development is welcome, in addition to conforming to zoning law.
“We have the lease. Anyone who is interested to develop it or turn it into a worthwhile commercial operation, we’d be happy to talk to them,” the governor added.
He said there have been some entities that have met with the administration on the La Fiesta Mall revitalization, but no one has so far gotten back to them to pursue any of their plans.
The administration opened up the mall to anyone interested in developing it after previous negotiations with United Micronesia Development Association Inc. for the latter to revitalize the former mall “came to a standstill.”
A part of the government’s condition is for any would-be investor to also shoulder the annual $200,000 land lease.
Besides retail shops, boutiques, and restaurants, La Fiesta was expected to also feature video lottery terminals under a deal previously being worked out with UMDA.
Initial estimates placed the cost of renovating the La Fiesta Mall at $5 million, but this figure has turned out to be too conservative.
The CNMI government has been paying for the mall property lease at least since 2004, a year after the government bought the complex in 2003 initially for the Northern Marianas College’s Pacific Gateway Project but this did not take off.