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The J.C. Penney store at Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge.

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY TRAVIS SPRADLING

A California-based investor purchased the former J.C. Penney store at Cortana Mall for $850,000 at an auction.

Jose Gonzales doesn’t know yet what he will do yet with the store, said Austin Earhart, an agent with Beau Box Commercial Real Estate, who represented the buyer and the seller. The deal includes the 200,000-square-foot store and the 12 acres around it.

While existing agreements with Cortana Mall require the space to remain in use as a retail site, Earhart said the mall’s owners have been waiving those requirements. The former Service Merchandise/Steve & Barry’s space became home for Virginia College in 2010.

“It will be something other than retail,” Earhart said. “It will have to be something else.”

Experts have suggested the property at Airline Highway and Florida Boulevard be turned into a distribution center, call center, office space, church, health care facility, school or some combination of all of those things.

The Cortana J.C. Penney store closed this spring when the retailer shut down 138 locations nationally.

Beau Box had listed the property for $2.4 million. But Earhart said J.C. Penney decided it wanted to auction off many of its stores and put about 80 locations on the block. “It was an interesting process,” he said.

Moonbeam Leasing & Management of Las Vegas, which owns Cortana and the former Mervyn’s anchor store, put the properties on the market in August for $4 million. The former Sears and Macy’s anchor stores are being sold separately, there are reportedly purchase agreements for both of the stores.

Cortana has been open since August 1976 and was the place to shop in Baton Rouge until the Mall of Louisiana, which opened in 1997, eventually wrested away the title.

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.