BOULDER - A preliminary price for the Dillard's department store and property in Longmont could be set Monday, paving the way for NewMark Merrill Mountain States LLC to start construction on an $80 million redevelopment of the Twin Peaks Mall.

A marathon day of testimony on Friday in Boulder District Court concluded the three-day hearing between the Longmont Urban Renewal Authority and Dillard's Inc. A three-person board consisting of Boulder attorneys William Gray and J. Marcus Painter and local real estate broker B. Scot Smith will make a site visit to the mall on Saturday morning before deliberating and determining a price.
 
The board's decision will be delivered to Judge D.D. Mallard early next week and then relayed to the involved parties.

LURA is taking the Dillard's store by the power of eminent domain to help facilitate the redevelopment of the ailing mall. Dillard's, which owns its store and the seven acres on which it sits and has been an unwilling seller, holds a reciprocal easement agreement that gives it veto power over any redevelopment at the site.

A jury trial in April will determine the actual price LURA must pay Dillard's for the store. But the preliminary price set by the three-man board will allow the LURA to take possession of the title to Dillard's and clear the way for NewMark Merrill to secure the financing it needs to begin construction.

Within 10 days of the preliminary price being set, LURA will deposit the set amount in escrow with the court until the jury trial in April. If the jury price comes in higher, LURA will have to pay the difference then. If the jury price comes in lower, LURA will get a refund. In the meantime, Dillard's can withdraw up to 75 percent of the $3.03 million that the LURA has argued the property is worth.

Testimony began at 8:30 a.m. Friday and didn't end until closing arguments wrapped up at 7:30 p.m.

Much of Friday's testimony by witnesses for both sides was spent rebutting testimony by the other sides' experts. While an appraiser hired by LURA valued the property at $3.03 million, an appraiser hired by Dillard's placed the value at $6.3 million.

Much of Dillard's argument centered around the notion that the downward spiral of the Twin Peaks Mall began with the city deeming the area blighted. But LURA attorney Don Ostrander in his closing argument pointed out that two previous owners of the mall had abandoned it, including the second letting it go into foreclosure after purchasing it for nearly $34 million just a few years earlier.
 
"There is nothing that indicates, absent (the NewMark Merrill project) that this wasn't going to go further downhill," Ostrander said.

Dillard's attorney Leslie Fields, in her closing, argued that LURA appraiser Harold McCloud's methods were faulty and failed to disregard the negative impact that the pending redevelopment has had on the value of the Dillard's store.

Fields argued that the redevelopment plans had played a role in the exodus of tenants from the mall and thus the increasing blight and negative perceptions of the area. Of the four anchor locations at the mall, only Dillard's is occupied.

"For the new project to come alive, to be developed, you have to kill what's there," said Fields, noting NewMark's desire to get rid of Dillard's reciprocal easement agreement. "And that's what happened here."
 
The Twin Peaks redevelopment has been dubbed The Village at the Peaks. It is slated to be anchored by a Whole Foods Market, Sam's Club and Regal Cinema 12-screen movie theater.