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Concord Mall future unclear after Sears’ closure

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The new owners of the Concord Mall said that they are exploring all possible redevelopment options. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – After Sears confirmed earlier this month that it would close its Concord Mall location – its last department store in Delaware – many have begun to wonder what the future of the shopping destination may be.

The news of the Sears’ closure comes on the heels of the recent change in mall ownership.

A partnership of Mason Asset Management and Namdar Realty Group, a quickly growing commercial real estate investment firm based in Long Island, N.Y., took ownership of the mall on Jan. 15 after purchasing the mall’s mortgage in August 2019 and its previous owner, an entity affiliated with Delaware-based Allied Properties, was at risk of foreclosure. Instead of proceeding into that public process, Allied simply turned over the mall’s keys.

The mall was already dealing with a vacancy issue before Sears’ parent company, TransformCo, announced its plans to shutter the nearly 175,000-square-foot, two-story anchor store. With the Sears’ square footage totaled in, the mall will be more than 32% vacant in terms of sheer space.

Because the new ownership group has a mixed reputation for reinvesting in its properties, many have pondered whether the mall may be slipping toward redevelopment. Those concerns are amplified by the public U.S. 202 Master Plan discussions currently underway by county and state planners that is trending toward recommendation of more mixed use development in the corridor.

Elliot Nassim, president of Mason Asset Management, said that while discussions are ongoing, no plan has been formulated for the future of the mall.

“We are still currently exploring all possible redevelopment options –– including demalling, as well as alternative uses for the existing space,” he said, referring to the industry term of changing a mall’s focus away from retail, in an email response to Delaware Business Times questions. “That said, any demolition of the mall would require approval from a number of different stakeholders involved and would not be a decision made hastily.”

A potential obstacle to a whole-scale redevelopment of the site is the fact that the Sears and Macy’s anchor stores are owned by the companies and not the Mason-Namdar partnership. What happens to the Sears store after its mid-April closure is up to TransformCo, although Nassim noted that prospective tenants have come forward in recent days.

Another question mark is the future of the Concord Mall’s Macy’s after that beleaguered retailer also recently announced plans to close about 100 department stores in the next three years. A Macy’s spokesperson told DBT that the company did not have any information to report on the Concord Mall location’s future.

A Boscov’s leader said that the retailer has no intent of leaving its Concord Mall store. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Meanwhile, the Boscov’s anchor store is owned by the mall owners, but the retailer has a long-term ground lease that would prevent redevelopment any time soon.

Jacob Stein, senior vice president of communications, real estate and maintenance for Boscov’s, told DBT that his company “has no plans on leaving its location.”

Boscov’s had been aware for months that Allied was at risk of losing the mall, Stein said, noting that such transactions are becoming “sadly very common in the industry.” Stein said that he met with Mason-Namdar officials several times in December, the last time being when he learned that Allied was preparing to turn over the property.

“It was sad to see them lose control of the mall,” Stein said, calling the company connected to the Acierno family “good partners for many years.”

Stein said that Boscov’s currently has one store connected with Mason-Namdar, and the retailer “still does really well there.” He said that he hasn’t heard of any plans for major changes at the Concord Mall under the investors though.

“I don’t know that they have any immediate plans for the property, other than trying to fill in some of the vacancies,” he said.

Regardless of whether the new mall owners decide to take the property in a dramatically different direction, Stein said customers could rely on Boscov’s remaining.

“If they want to tear down the mall, they would have to leave our four walls up,” he said.

By Jacob Owens

[email protected]

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