When Stan Pate bought McFarland Mall in 2009, it had been in decline for a decade and had lost two anchor tenants — Dillard’s and Goody’s department stores — within the previous year, in the midst of the Great Recession.

Although the mall, which opened in 1969, still had several major tenants, the future of retail was uncertain, to say the least. Pate acknowledged as much, calling the purchase one of the biggest risks of his career. Nonetheless, the location of the nearly 40-acre mall site at the intersection of McFarland and Skyland boulevards, near the interstate, made it an attractive investment opportunity, he said.

In the intervening years, Pate demolished part of the mall and announced plans for a $75 million retail development on the site that would be called Encore Tuscaloosa, saying he had commitments from nationally-known retailers and restaurants. Yet by 2016 nothing had materialized. Pate said then he still intended to redevelop the site but no longer had concrete plans for it. Indeed, nothing has happened to the site since. Nothing good, anyway. Ten years after Pate bought it, the mall remains half torn down, the vast parking lot has deteriorated and weeds are growing through the concrete slab that once was the foundation for Dillard’s.

Now, Pate wants to sell the property to the city. We don’t blame him for trying, but we’re shocked that the City Council is actually considering buying it along with other Pate properties adjacent to the mall site and the Rice Mine Road Loop – more than 70 acres in all at a cost of $28 million. This makes no sense, particularly with regard to the mall site since the idea, apparently, would be to turn around and sell it, part of it, at least, to another developer or developers. Pate could do that — couldn’t he? — and taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for $28 million.

At least an argument could be made for buying the 7-acre Rice Mine site, given its proximity to the future path of the city’s Riverwalk. The city has an interest in ensuring that development there would be compatible with the Riverwalk, although it has the power to do that without actually buying Pate’s property.

For a decade, however, Pate — for whatever reason — has not redeveloped the mall site. Why would the city take it off his hands? Concern that the property has become an eyesore doesn’t justify it. If the city can threaten residents of west Tuscaloosa with fines, even jail, if they don’t paint their shutters — as happened earlier this summer — then it can — and should — require Pate to clean up his property.

Blight was a reason included in a council resolution to buy the mall property that was tabled on July 30 in favor of a 45-day due diligence agreement with Pate. That agreement gave the city exclusive rights to the mall and Rice Mine properties while considering its options. The city immediately issued requests for proposals to more than 400 developers around the country but received only two by the Aug. 27 deadline. That doesn’t bode well.

The mall site might have potential for some sort of public-use development, but the city doesn’t have to be in a hurry to buy it. The property isn’t going anywhere unless Pate sells it to another developer, which would be even better — it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime.