Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mall Future?

The possible closing of the Brass Mill Center mall is once again a hot topic on many minds, but with more validity than in the past.

The mall is owned by General Growth Properties, Inc., based in Chicago, is currently trying to avoid declaring bankruptcy. General Growth (GGP) also owns one other mall in Connecticut, The Shoppes at Buckland Hills in Manchester, as well as more than 200 malls throughout the country. According to articles on Courant.com, GGP has some $900 million in mortgage debts, apparently from two malls in Las Vegas (that's right--a bad financial expense in Vegas has put something "at home" in danger--just joking here, but there is a sort of tragic comedy to it), as well as an additional $1800 million or so of other debts. There are serious concerns that GGP will "go under". Their debt ratings have most recently been downgraded to junk status (I have no idea what that really means, but it certainly doesn't sound good).

In Waterbury and, presumably, the other 200+ communities with GGP-owned malls, the immediate question is whether or not the malls will close if GGP fails. I imagine that the first step would be to put the malls up for sale. What happens after that is unknown to me. All the realtors I know agree that nothing is selling right now.

I've been hearing some buzz for the past few years about the era of the malls reaching its end. Times change, nothing lasts forever. But all of those merchants in the mall need stores in which to do business (for the customers who don't do all their shopping online). It would be interesting if the mall merchants banded together to buy the mall and then operated it as a co-op or condo association. It might even save them some money in the long run.

The current events seem somewhat ironic. The creation of malls is one of the factors associated with the death of downtown. Now that the downtown is beginning to come back to life, the mall is in danger of dying (I don't think the mall will shut down, but I'm certainly no expert). In some ways, the theoretical closing of the mall could be a boon to downtown, as the mall merchants could relocate to downtown storefronts. Unfortunately, a dead mall visible from the highway would drag down all of Waterbury, scaring away potential visitors. It's in Waterbury's best interests to keep the mall alive and thriving, even if General Growth dies.


Dan said...

I disagree. I don't think it is in Waterbury's best interest to keep the mall alive and thriving. I think it is vital for Waterbury to get downtown back on its feet. All this expansion in Waterbury has done no good whatsoever, as far as I can tell, and the mall has always been a joke in CT. If people want a good mall, they don't come to Waterbury. They go to Meriden or West Hartford, or Danbury.

Waterbury is the ghetto mall. Just look at the stores inside, and the clientele. I can't imagine GGP is meeting their profit margins here anyway.

Waterbury has always been a downtown city. When downtown died, the city died. The only thing that can bring it back is a revitalized downtown. The mall closing might be the best thing to happen to Waterbury, but the city would have to play its cards right. The mall site can be used for other things, and it doesn't have to become an eyesore from the highway (think of the rolling mills before it). What we need is creative and honest leadership. something Waterbury has been lacking for far too long.

Jaime said...

While I like the mall, and I would be sad to see it go (H&M!!!), I do love the idea of the downtown being revitalized. Thanks to your blog, I'm planning my first trip to the John Bale Book Company tomorrow. I hope Waterbury starts to get the attention and the money it deserves.

Anonymous said...

GGP's problems are with its debts. Its individual assets -- like the mall -- are income generating properties.

Even though the real estate market is soft, there are always buyers for properties that have solid cashflow.

GGP may lose on the deal, but the mall won't close.

Peter said...

If worse came to worst, lenders or the bankruptcy trustee would arrange for a company to manage the mall until it could be sold. As the prior comment notes, the mall is a profitable operation and therefore wouldn't be shut down merely because of GGP's failure.

Being operated on behalf of a trustee pending sale might mean that little would be done in terms of improvements to the mall, pending a more permanent ownership solution, but that's far from saying that it would be shut down.

Anonymous said...

i miss the watrbury of the old days(80's) it was't the gang hangout that it is today...i agree with the idea of closing it and bringing back downtown. i go to either danbury or west hartford if i rally need to go to the mall.