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.