What’s next for Waterbury Shopping Center after being sold to developer

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Less than 25 years after opening, Brass Mill Center is now its third owner.

The Waterbury Mall and adjacent Brass Mill Commons mall were sold for $44.9 million late last month to a Long Island, NY company that claims to specialize in transforming struggling malls. Mike Kohan, director of the Kohan Retail Investment Group, said Wednesday that the company “has been in the mall business for 20 years and we’ve done a tremendous amount of repositioning.”

“I need time to figure out what will work there,” said Kohan, whose legal name is Mehran Kohansieh. “Hopefully we can add things that will bring more traffic to the mall, which will attract more tenants.”

The exterior of Waterbury’s Brass Mill Center shopping center shown on Friday 22nd November. The mall imposes a temporary curfew at certain times during the holiday season. During these times, under 18s must be accompanied by an adult.

Luther Turmelle / Hearst Connecticut Media

In other locations where Kohan Retail Investment Group operates malls, it said increased entertainment options have helped increase foot traffic.

“Things like bungee jumping or bowling alleys,” he said.

Brass Mill Center spans 1.1 million square feet and is one of the largest malls in the state. It opened in September 1997 after the demolition of the historic Scovill Brass Works and an environmental cleanup.

Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary is due to meet with Kohan on Tuesday, June 7, according to Jennifer Rose, the mayor’s spokeswoman.

“We had discussions with him before the sale and after the sale, and we will sit down with him and talk about his vision and our vision of what is best for the mall,” O’Leary said in an interview with Hearst Connecticut Media this week.

O’Leary said the mall “has failed steadily for the past 10 years.”

“Sears closed, then Macy’s closed; JCPenney is staying there,” he said. “But we were kind of waiting for someone to ‘rip the bandage off’. The mall sale did that, and we look forward to working with the new owner to see what the highest and best use of the property is.

O’Leary said Brass Mill Commons is “doing very well”.

“He has a number of incredibly successful outlets, as well as TGI Friday’s and other successful businesses,” he said. “This side of the street is fine.”

Lynn Ward, president and chief executive of the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce, said ‘the mall’s revival is very important as they are a very significant landlord and taxpayer’ for the town. Ward said she remembered the mall’s opening as downtown small business owners worried that Brass Mill Center would siphon off their customers.

“That attitude changed over time because there was a very committed group of business and community leaders who worked to ensure the mall developed a connection to the city centre. “

The best way to revitalize Brass Mill Center

Retail and mall experts say the best way to drive more foot traffic to the mall is to convert vacant anchor space into some sort of mixed use.

“Municipalities are short-sighted if they think they can keep mall properties strictly as retail,” said Brian Marks, senior lecturer in the Department of Economics and Business Analysis at the University of New Haven. “The pandemic has accelerated the reduction of the brick-and-mortar retail footprint as most retailers are completely rethinking their strategies. Anyone buying property in a strip mall these days needs to consider more creative reuse. »

Jason Beske, senior urban designer at Stantec, based in Arlington, Va., said the company is doing a lot of work designing remakes of declining malls.

“Mall sites can be used to create a successful mixed-use environment,” Beske said. “It can help reinvigorate retail space that is dead or dying. This mall once served the city’s job and tax base needs. You now have the option of using this space to fulfill an obligation, such as housing or health care.

To illustrate this, Waterbury officials need look no further than the Meriden Mall, where Yale New Haven Health has purchased Macy’s former flagship store there and plans to convert the space into medical practices.

Yale New Haven Health is currently in the process of trying to acquire Waterbury Hospital. A spokesperson for Yale New Haven Health said Thursday that the idea of ​​moving some of the functions into the mall space “is something that could be addressed very soon since the (acquisition) process is still in progress. his beginnings”.

Yale New Haven Health has not begun construction on its conversion of space from the former Macy’s to Meriden Mall, according to the spokesperson.

According to Burt Flickinger, managing director of the New York-based Strategic Resource Group, the conversion of vacant space in shopping centers, known in the mall and shopping center industry as “medtail”, is one of the trends hottest trends in retail development.

Earlier this month, officials from Hartford Healthcare confirmed plans to construct a dozen new medical buildings in Fairfield County over the next 18 months. Hartford Healthcare officials have yet to identify specific Fairfield County locations.

And in another local example of the marriage of retail and housing, construction of apartments on the outer edge of the Westfield Trumbull shopping center property began last October.

luther.turmelle@hearstmediact.com

Journalist Paul Schott contributed to this report.


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