A Miami-based venture capital firm has entered the bidding for the darkened Younkers department store at Merle Hay Mall, sending mall ownership back before Polk County supervisors in an effort to sweeten a low-interest loan intended for the purchase of Younkers and the equally dark Sears store.

Both retailers were closed last summer after the bankruptcy filings of their parent companies. In October, supervisors approved a $2.5 million loan at 1 percent interest to help Merle Hay Investors buy and redevelop the properties.

Liz Holland, whose family developed and retains majority ownership of Merle Hay Mall, the state’s first shopping center when it opened in 1959 with Sears and Younkers as its anchors, said initially mall ownership was the lone bidder for the Younkers store, at a price of $500,000.

Lionheart Capital, which has acquired several shuttered Macy’s stores and a vacant J.C. Penney store and owns other commercial and residential properties throughout the country, upped the ante when it bid $1.5 million for the Merle Hay Mall Younkers as part of an effort to buy a total of four stores.

As a result, Merle Hay Investors is seeking a $3.5 million, 15-year loan at 1 percent interest to buy Younkers and Sears.

Mall owners also are awaiting final approval of a development deal with the city of Des Moines, with payment of a portion of that package, financed with tax increment finance revenues, contingent upon acquisition of the Sears store. Sears is located on the Des Moines side of the mall, while Younkers is located in Urbandale.

Read more about Merle Hay Mall and efforts to reposition its retail offerings here.