December 17, 2018

Enfield mall sold at auction for $10.85 million

PHOTO | Flickr via JJBers
PHOTO | Flickr via JJBers
The Enfield Square mall.

The Enfield Square mall, which has been in a state of decline for years, was sold at auction Wednesday to an undisclosed buyer for $10.85 million.

The result of the auction was posted on the Ten-X Commercial Real Estate's website but missing was the name of the winning bidder.

Casey Petersen, a client manager at the company, said Wednesday that the buyer information is being kept confidential for now but will become public after the deal closes.

The sale is expected to close and become final in about 30 days, Petersen said.

The buyer paid $7.05 million more than the starting bid of $3.8 million.

Court documents state that J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. has owned the mall property, at 90 Elm St., since February 2016 after the bank foreclosed on a $240 million loan to the mall's former owner, Centro Enfield LLC.

Centro Enfield, which bought the property in 2006 for $82 million, had unpaid debt that totaled about $67.5 million.

Mayor Michael Ludwick views the sale as good news.

Ludwick pointed out that while the mall, located directly off of Interstate 91, is situated in a desirable area of town to attract shoppers, a retail-only use of the property may not work in the future.

The 787,000-square-foot mall, which opened in 1971, has an occupancy rate of 57.5 percent, according to the auction page.

While Ludwick doesn't know what the buyer might do with the property, he would like to see it turned into some sort of multi-use site that would include other uses, such as a place for health care facilities.

Ludwick acknowledged there has been some uneasiness among the owners of remaining businesses at the mall, he firmly stated he doesn't want anyone to leave.

From a business perspective, he said, even if the remaining businesses, which include Target, Rave Cinemas Enfield 12, Panera Bread, GameStop, and Victoria's Secret, are doing well, they can still do better.

He said it should be a source of pride for the town to see the mall revitalized.

Over the past two decades there have been significant vacancies at the mall. The J.C. Penney department store left in 2000, Macy's closed its doors in 2016, and Sears shut its store in 2017.

Additionally, the few attempts to drum up business for the area have been unsuccessful.

In 2015, Centro Enfield pitched the mall as a site for a satellite casino to head off gamblers before the MGM Springfield casino opened in August, but a site in East Windsor was chosen instead.

Last year Enfield was among many metropolitan areas that sought to be the new location for the e-commerce giant Amazon's second North American headquarters. But Amazon later eliminated Connecticut as a potential contender and chose two other sites — in New York City and Arlington, Virginia — for its new headquarters.

Despite these setbacks, Ludwick said, the town should be looking forward, not back, and this is a chance for Enfield to be what it should be: "The economic power in northern Connecticut."

He said the town is willing to work with the buyer and do whatever it can to move as quickly as possible. By making the new endeavor profitable, Ludwick said, Enfield also will prosper, as it will create jobs and increase tax dollars for the town.

Ludwick also added that he would be surprised if residents are "anything but excited" about the mall property being bought, given the town's fiscal challenges.

"I think we've been pretty clear we want Enfield open for business, and if we're going to be able to weather what's going to come down from the continued state budget reductions, we've got to get investors to invest," he said.

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