The city ended its lease with the owners of Columbus City Center on Tuesday and sued for $1.2 million in unpaid rent and parking revenue, setting the stage for a battle over the future of the Downtown mall.

The city also threatened to evict owner TL-Columbus Associates -- a holding company made up of Simon Property Group and the General Motors Pension Fund -- if it doesn’t voluntarily leave the mall within three days.

At a news conference, Mayor Michael Coleman and other leaders categorized TL-Columbus as “absentee landlords.” Nationwide Realty Investors, developer of the Arena District, has been tapped to help redevelop the mall if local officials regain control of it.

But Simon Property CEO David Simon said his company had a deal to sell City Center to a local group that included developer Don M. Casto III. “We just wanted to sell it, which was the right thing for the city…and give the opportunity for redevelopment to take place,” Simon told The Dispatch.

City Center once boasted 150 stores and several high-profile anchors. Today it is 77 percent empty.

Check out Mike Pramik's Dispatch story for more.

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