Re-imagining the Eastfield Mall as a Mixed-Use Property | Connecting Point | Aug. 5, 2019


LIKE MANY MALLS IN THE REGION,
THE EASTFIELD MALL IN
SPRINGFIELD HAS LOST BIG ANCHOR
STORES LIKE MACY’S, JC PENNY AND
SEARS IN RECENT YEARS, LEAVING
EMPTY STOREFRONTS AND SHOPPERS
WONDERING WHAT’S TO BECOME OF
THE RETAIL SPACE.
THE OWNERS OF THE EASTFIELD MALL
HAVE PLANS FOR TO TURN THE MALL
INTO A MIXED-USE PROPERTY WHICH
WILL INCLUDE ENTERTAINMENT,
RETAIL STORES AND RESIDENTIAL.
I SAT DOWN WITH CHUCK BREIDNBACH
OF MOUNTAIN DEVELOPMENT AND DAVE
THOMPSON, THE MALL PROPERTY
MANAGER, TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE
PLANS.
>>IT’S PRETTY MUCH THE SAME
WE’VE HAD BEFORE AND THAT IS
TAKE THE MALL AND TAKE CERTAIN
SECTIONS OF IT DOWN AND RETAIN
CERTAIN SECTIONS THAT WE FELT
WERE WORTHWHILE AND MAKE IT MORE
OF AN OPEN-AIR CENTER AND ALSO
MAKE IT A MIXED USE CENTER SO
THAT WE HAVE RETAIL,
RESTAURANTS, ENTERTAINMENT,
HOUSING, MEDICAL FACILITIES,
GYMS, DAYCARE, YOU KNOW, MIXED
IN WITH A LOT OF MULTIFAMILY
RESIDENTIAL SO WE’RE LOOKING AT
IT AS A COMPLETE REDO OF THE
PROPERTY WITHOUT TAKING THE
ENTIRE THING APART.
>>DAVE, WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE
MALL I KNOW OLD NAVY IS STILL
THERE.
MACY’S LEFT, J.C. PENNEYS LEFT
AS WELL AS SEARS.
YOU KNOW, WILBUR HAM, MUNSON,
IT’S SAD TO SEE IT SORT OF BE SO
QUIET WHEN YOU WALK IN AND I’M
SURE YOU’VE HEARD THAT.
>>YEAH, I HEAR IT OFTEN.
THERE DEFINITELY IS STILL A
PASSION FOR THE EASTFIELD MALL
AND THE LOCAL NEIGHBORHOODS FOR
SURE.
WE’RE DOING PRETTY GOOD AT
KEEPING THE IN-LINES FULL RIGHT
NOW.
BUT IT IS SAD AND THAT, YOU
KNOW, IT’S NOT FOR LACK OF
TRYING BUT — WE ALL KNOW WHAT
AMAZON IS DOING TO THE BRICK AND
MORTAR RETAIL AND THAT’S WHAT
WE’RE UP AGAINST.
>>SO AS YOU TALKED ABOUT THIS
MIXED USE, IS THIS THE WAY OF
THE FUTURE WHEN YOU LOOK AT
THESE MALLS THAT USED TO
DOMINATE SHOPPING BACK IN THE
’80s, I GUESS, AND THE ’70s.
>>BUT TO A LARGE EXTENT THEY
HAVE TO BE ORIENTED SPECIFICALLY
TO THE MARKET THAT THEY SERVE.
YOU KNOW, FOR THE YEARS I’VE
BEEN IN THE BUSINESS, YOU COULD
TAKE ME INTO ANY MALL IN THE
COUNTRY AND BLINDFOLD ME AND
SPIN ME AROUND AND I COULDN’T
TELL YOU WHERE I WAS BECAUSE THE
STORES ALL LOOKED THE SAME.
WE WANT TO MAKE IT MORE
AUTHENTIC AND UNIQUE AND PROVIDE
OPPORTUNITIES FOR LOCAL
ENTREPRENEURS AND LOCAL
RESTAURATEURS AND REALLY MAKE IT
NEW AND DIFFERENCE.
>>THE MOVIES — WILL THE MOVIES
WILL STAY.
>>YES.
>>I KNOW ANOTHER PART OF THE
PLAN IS A MARIJUANA CULTIVATION
FACILITY THAT’S BEEN TALKED BE
ABOUT.
SO JUST BRING US UP-TO-DATE TO
THAT.
>>YES, THAT WAS PROPOSED LAST
MONTH IN THE SUBMISSIONS TO THE
CITY.
AND WE’RE LOOKING AT A
CULTIVATION AND MANUFACTURING
FACILITY THERE.
IT’LL PROVIDE 200 JOBS.
IT’S A RELATIVELY QUIET
OPERATION.
WE FILL WITH 200 JOBS THAT’S A
REALLY GREAT START TO BRING
PEOPLE BACK TO THE PROPERTY TO
WORK ‘CAUSE WHAT WE’RE TRYING TO
ESTABLISH THERE IS WHAT WE CALL
A LIVE/WORK/PLAY ENVIRONMENT.
YOU CAN LIVE THERE.
YOU CAN WORK THERE.
AND YOU CAN GO OUT AND EAT,
DRINK, GO TO THE MOVIES, DO
WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO.
>>AND WHAT’S THE RESPONSE
YOU’VE BEEN GETTING FROM BOTH
VENDORS AND PEOPLE IN THE
DIFFERENT NEIGHBORHOOD GROUPS
LIKE INDIAN ORCHARD AND 16
ACRES?
>>VERY POSITIVE.
YEAH, LIKE I MENTIONED EARLIER,
THERE IS A PASSION STILL WITHIN
THE NEIGHBORHOODS FOR THE
EASTFIELD MALL, AND WHEN WE
START TO DESCRIBE WHAT WE’RE
TRYING TO DO AT THE CENTER, YOU
KNOW, THEY LIGHT UP AND, OH, WE
CAN’T WAIT AND SO IT’S VERY
POSITIVE AND THAT PORTION OF THE
PLAN — AGAIN, VERY POSITIVE.
>>AND THAT WOULD GO IN THE
MACY’S — WHERE MACY’S WAS.
>>YES, YES.
>>SO WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT
RECREATION AS PART OF THE
FOOTPRINT, YOU KNOW,
ENTERTAINMENT AS WELL, PEOPLE
ARE GOING TO BE BRINGING THEIR
KIDS THERE, DOES THAT, YOU KNOW,
MAKE SOME PEOPLE NERVOUS MAYBE
THERE’S A CULTIVATION FACILITY
WITHIN THE USE OF THE PROPERTY?
>>I WOULDN’T THINK SO IT’S BEEN
GENERALLY ACCEPTED IN
MASSACHUSETTS AND IN SOME OF THE
PROPOSED LOCATIONS PLACES WHERE
YOU WOULD TAKE YOUR KIDS.
WE GOT ONE I BELIEVE DOWN NEAR
THE BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME.
YOU’VE GOT COUNTRY ON BOSTON
ROAD CLOSE TO A DOCTOR’S OFFICE.
SO I WOULDN’T SEE THE
DIFFERENCE.
>>AND IS SANTA CLAUS AND THE
EASTER BUNNY STILL BE MAKING
APPEARANCES IN THE NEW EASTFIELD
COMMONS.
>>ABSOLUTELY.
>>THAT’S A BIG DRAW AS YOU
KNOW.
>>OH, ABSOLUTELY, YEAH.
>>YOU KNOW, SOMETHING ELSE YOU
THINK ABOUT HOW MALLS HAVE
CHANGED AND MAYBE I’M PART OF
THE OLD GUARD BUT IT’S
FRUSTRATING, I THINK, FOR A LOT
OF PEOPLE NOT TO BE BE ABLE TO
GO IN TO RETAIL STORES WHAT YOU
TALKED ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THE
ONLINE THING.
IS THIS JUST THE WAY OF THE
FUTURE AS FAR AS RETAIL?
>>YES, IF YOU LOOK AROUND THE
COUNTRY, LOOK LOCALLY LOOK AT
SOME OF THE SINGLE-LEVEL MALLS
THAT ARE CLOSED BY IN ADJACENT
TOWNS.
WITHIN AN HOUR I CAN THINK 2 OR
3 OR POSSIBLY 4 THEY’RE HAVING
THE SAME PROBLEM, AND TO HAVE
COMMUNITY SUPPORT AND SHOPPER
SUPPORT AND FOLKS LIKE DAVE AND
HIS STAFF WHO WORK WITH LOCAL
MERCHANTS TO TRY TO GROW THEM OR
INCUBATE THEM OR GET THEM
STARTED OR EXPAND THEIR
BUSINESSES.
>>WHAT ABOUT SOME OF THE SMALL
BUSINESSES?
I KNOW THERE’S A LOT OF NEWER,
SMALLER BUSINESSES THAT FILL UP
THOSE STORES IN THE MALL, YOU
KNOW, WITH THE ABSENCE OF, YOU
KNOW, THE BIGGER DEPARTMENT
STORES.
>>UH-HUH.
>>HOW ARE THEY DOING?
>>THEY’RE DOING WELL.
THEY’RE HOLDING THEIR OWN.
LIKE CHUCK MENTIONED A LOT OF
THEM ARE THE MA AND PA STARTUPS
AND THEY’RE LOCAL PEOPLE WHICH I
THINK IS AWESOME, YOU KNOW?
AND WE’VE ADD FEW THAT CRASH AND
BURN.
WE’RE BATTING PRETTY WELL OR
THEY ARE DOING WELL.
>>SO WHEN — YOU KNOW, WHAT’S
THE NEXT STEP IN THIS PHASE
FOR — FOR THE NEW EASTFIELD
COMMONS?
>>WELL, WE’RE IN THE PROCESS OF
TRYING TO SELECT A JOINT VENTURE
PARTNER.
HE WOULD WITH LIKE TO FIND
SOMEBODY WHO’S LOCAL OR REGIONAL
WHO UNDERSTANDS THE AREA, AND
MORE IMPORTANTLY SHARES THE SAME
VISION THAT WE DO FOR THE
PROPERTY.
THAT’S TANTAMOUNT TO DOING THIS
BECAUSE WE DON’T WANT TO DO IT
ON OUR OWN.
WE’RE ALREADY UNDERTAKING ONE
VERY SIMILAR NATURE OVER IN
BUFFALO, NEW YORK, WHICH IS
GOING VERY WELL.
WE HAVE A LOCAL PARTNER THERE.
WE’VE ENGAGED GENTZLER WHO’S THE
WORLD’S LARGEST ARCHITECT TO DO
THE INITIAL SITE DESIGN AND
RESEARCH, MARKET RESEARCH, AND
WE’RE, YOU KNOW, JUST ABOUT 9
MONTHS INTO THAT PROJECT WITH
THEM AND ARE NOW BEGINNING TO
SEE, YOU KNOW, SITE PLANS AND
CONCEPT PLANS THAT WE CAN
UTILIZED BASED ON THE
COMMUNITY’S REACTION AND THEIR
INPUT.
THAT’S VERY IMPORTANT.
>>AND IN THE MEANTIME, THE MALL
AS IT EXISTS CURRENTLY STAYS
OPEN WITH THE MOVIE THEATER AND
ALL OF THAT STAYS IN PLACE.
>>CERTAINLY.
>>THERE’S A LOT OF MOVING PARTS
BECAUSE OF THE CULTIVATION
FACILITY AND LOOKING FOR A
PARTNER AS WELL.
>>YES.
>>WHAT’S THE RESIDENTIAL PART
OF THE PLAN.
>>WELL, WE DID SOME MRAEFRNTH
ABOUT A YEAR AGO AND WE FOUND
THERE WAS A LARGE DEMAND FROM
INVESTORS TO MAINTAIN A
RESIDENCE NEAR THEIR FAMILIES,
EITHER RENTED OR OWNED AND —
BUT DOWNSIZED IN A
MULTIFAMILY-TYPE SITE WHERE THEY
DIDN’T HAVE TO DO ROADWORK AND
REPAIR ROADS AND THOSE TYPES OF
THINGS, AND WE ALSO FOUND
ANOTHER SEGMENT WHICH IS YOUNG
PROFESSIONALS THAT MOVED TO THE
AREA THAT ARE REALLY LOOKING FOR
UPDATED, YOU KNOW,
STATE-OF-THE-ART MULTIFAMILY
HOUSING AND WE FIND A REAL NEED
FOR THAT IN THE AREA.
THERE ISN’T A LOT OF IT.
I DON’T THINK THERE’S ANY OF IT
BUT WE FEEL THOSE ARE
OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVICE TWO
SEGMENTS OF THE POPULATION THAT
MIGHT JUST LEAVE IF THEY
COULDN’T FIND WHAT THEY WANTED.

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