Image: Woodlands Township Chairman Gordy Bunch’s new office building, 10055 Grogans Mill Road, The Woodlands, which he purchased on September 16, 2022, for approximately $16 million cash, according to two sources inside Howard Hughes Corporation, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
The Woodlands, November 30 – When Woodlands Township Board Chairman Gordy Bunch pushed an $80 million corporate welfare tax deal on the residents of The Woodlands during a secretive meeting on Friday, November 18, 2022, he ensured that his legacy would be major community problems, both financial and traffic congestion. Bunch rushed through a secretive deal he had worked out with Mall owner, The Woodlands Mall Associates, L.L.C. (“WMA”), which troubled real estate developer Brookfield Properties ultimately owns and controls.
Bunch had a major conflict of interest in the deal, which he ignored until the final vote when he already knew he had sufficient votes to cram the $80 million deal he had made with WMA down the throats of Woodlands residents. Bunch even acknowledged that he had a conflict of interest when he announced he was abstaining from the vote. Nevertheless, proper meeting procedure would have required that Bunch leave the room and take no part in the discussion or vote. Far to the contrary, this newspaper has confirmed that Bunch led the discussion in each of the three secretive executive session meetings the Board held to discuss the deal prior to the vote. Clearly, the entire arrangement with WMA was Bunch’s deal.
Please see “Bunch Pushes Massive Mall Economic Development Deal As Parting Shot At Woodlands Township, After Months Of Secret Negotiations,” The Golden Hammer, November 21, 2022, https://thegoldenhammer.net/bunch-pushes-massive-mall-economic-development-deal-as-parting-shot-at-woodlands-township-after-months-of-secret-negotiations/
Bunch persuaded his allies on the Township Board to vote in favor, 5 to 1, of a massive $80 million favorable tax treatment proposal to finance a 1200 space parking garage for a new retail and hotel development in the southwest corner of the Woodlands Mall. The project includes tearing down the existing parking garage next to Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s to make room for 80,000 square feet of retail space, a 200 room full service hotel, and a 120 room select service hotel. Woodlands residents will subsidize the massive parking garage and all of the traffic congestion it will bring. Bunch, whose current landlord is WMA, will move his insurance business away from the Mall but will enjoy some possible increase in the value of the office building he purchased on September 16, 2022, near the Mall, for approximately $16 million cash, according to confidential sources inside of Howard Hughes Corporation, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.
The huge community investment in the Woodlands Mall is extraordinarily risk at best. Malls nationwide are losing sales and struggling, as they compete unsuccessfully with online retailers.
New York-based Brookfield Properties, which owns and manages the Mall, through WMA, has suffered terrible business setbacks. Among those setbacks are:
- In January, 2021, Brookfield conveyed a 1.3 million square foot mall near Atlanta to its lender New York Life Insurance Company, as Brookfield was unable to make the mortgage payments;
- Also in January, 2021, Brookfield was in default on ten mortgage loans for ten shopping malls across the United States and contemplated conveying those malls to the lenders;
- In March, 2021, Brookfield deeded an Indiana mall to its lender, Goldman Sachs, in order to avoid a foreclosure;
- In May, 2021, Brookfield conveyed three malls, with $6.5 billion of debt, in Kentucky, California, and Louisiana, to the lenders in lieu of foreclosure;
- In April, 2022, Brookfield deeded a major shopping mall in Chicago to its lender Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in order to avoid a foreclosure.
One of the recently elected Woodlands Township Directors, Brad Bailey, who will take office on Wednesday, November 30, 2022, told The Golden Hammer, “My main focus, from day one, is to provide a transparent and accountable Board of Directors. We will absolutely dive into this particular contract, and many others, to make sure all are in the best interest of our residents.”