The new owners of Southgate Mall plan to demolish three empty sites at the nearly 50-year-old indoor shopping center: the former J.C. Penney and Merchant’s Tire and Auto buildings and the free-standing former Kangaroo Express convenience store on the mall property. The Vireo Group plans to convert the enclosed shopping center into a partly open venue.

Southgate Mall apparently has been sold for $2.3 million in an online auction.

That’s according to Elizabeth City City Manager Rich Olson, who reported Friday that the online auction of the financially troubled mall had concluded last week.

Olson said in his weekly update to city councilors and the mayor that he doesn't know the winning bidder's name, but he’s been advised that the winning bidder is in the mall development business.

“I have been told that the future owner is a large, qualified mall developer with over three million square feet under management,” he said in the update.

Ten-X, a southern California-based real estate transaction firm that's handling the sale, said on its website the property is now in escrow, indicating the matter has been entrusted to a third party. Ten-X said once the deal has closed, the auction details will be made available.

Ten-X's auction for the mall was held between Monday, Jan. 30, and Wednesday, Feb. 1. The starting bid was set at $800,000, with each bidder required to submit a $10,000 participation deposit.

Last week’s apparent sale of Southgate is its second in seven months.

This past July, Southgate was sold for $8 million at a public auction on the steps of the Pasquotank County Courthouse to L and R Partners, a Miami-based debt servicing company.

That sale was prompted because Southgate's former owners, ABC Properties of New York City, defaulted on a 2005 promissory note held by ABC's lender, Bank National Association. BNA demanded a payment of $8.92 million from ABC in September 2015, but ABC couldn't make the payment.

Southgate Mall opened 1969 and remains the Albemarle's only big enclosed shopping center. Although Belk and Burkes Outlet remain as tenants, the mall has lost a number of other tenants in recent years as customer shopping patterns have shifted to the newer developments at the Shoppes at Tanglewood and Tanglewood Pavilion on Halstead Boulevard Extended.

Ten-X's involvement in facilitating the auction of Southgate was largely unknown until a month ago, when Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Economic Development Director Wayne Harris said he had discovered a notice of the auction while researching an unrelated matter online.

Attempts to obtain comment from Ten-X officials last month and again on Saturday were unsuccessful.

Pasquotank County records show Southgate Mall is valued at $6.3 million for taxation purposes.