November 19, 2018

Enfield Square mall to go up for auction

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

With the Enfield Square mall in steady decline and no promise of it being reinvigorated by new stores, the property's owner, J.P. Morgan Chase bank, will put it up for auction, according to Mayor Michael Ludwick.

The auction will begin Dec. 10 and run for two days on the real estate website.

The auction calls for an opening bid of $3.8 million, according to the website.

According to town and Hartford Superior Court documents, J.P. Morgan Chase has been owner of the 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 had a total unpaid debt of about $67.5 million.

According to town records, the current appraised value of the property is $27.5 million; a $6.4 million decrease from its 2015 appraised value of $33.9 million.

"I view this as a positive," Mayor Michael Ludwick said. "We can't continue to have the building half empty the way it is."

The 787,000-square-foot mall, built in 1975, currently has an occupancy rate of about 57 percent according to the Ten-X auction page, which also says the overall size of the property is 66.5 acres.

Ludwick said the property's location is desirable.

"We are right in the middle of 91 heading up to Springfield," the mayor said, referring to Interstate 91. "It's so easy right off the highway."

But he said the current function of the building probably wouldn't work in the future.

"The days of the concrete mall are over," he said. "It would be great if it's a multi-use building where the location is just a perfect location for retail. It's got to be a different design than the old box mall."

Ludwick conceded the possibility that whoever buys the property would be able to do whatever they wish with it, providing they get prior approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission. That could include tearing the mall down and starting from the ground up.

That possibility would cause concern for the remaining businesses on the property, he said, which include Target, Rave Cinemas Enfield 12, Panera Bread, GameStop, and Victoria's Secret.

"I know there's probably some uneasiness for those folks," Ludwick said.

He added, though, that there could be an opportunity for those businesses to grow if the new owners find a way to work with them.

There have been significant vacancies at the mall since 2000, when the J.C. Penney department store left. Macy's closed its store in the mall in 2016, and Sears shut its store the following year.

According to the Ten-X auction page, the space that houses the one remaining anchor retail store, Target, is owned by the landlord and has eight years remaining on its lease, with an expiration of Jan. 31, 2027.

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

Enfield officials also petitioned late last year to have Amazon.com's second headquarters centered on the mall's site, but the online retail company eliminated Connecticut as a potential site. This week, it selected two sites — in New York City and Arlington, Virginia — for new headquarters.

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