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    Friday, March 01, 2024

    Namdar Realty Group identified as Crystal Mall buyer

    An aerial view of the Crystal Mall in Waterford on Tuesday, June 20, 2023. (Peter Huoppi/The Day)
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    In this file photo, a visitor walks into the Crystal Mall on Sunday, May 14, 2023. An online listing shows the 39-year-old shopping complex will be auctioned on May 15, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    In this file photo, shoppers leave the Bed Bath & Beyond and Christmas Tree Shops entrance at Crystal Mall on Sunday, May 14, 2023. The Bed Bath & Beyond closed in the last year but the Christmas Tree Shops location is not among the outlets the 82-store chain plans to close. in An online listing shows the 39-year-old shopping complex will be auctioned on May 15, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Waterford ― A Long Island real estate investment firm with a history of snapping up struggling shopping malls and then hanging onto them while investing little in upgrades has purchased Crystal Mall for more than $9.5 million, having offered the winning bid in an online auction last month.

    A deed filed Thursday with the town clerk’s office shows three entities with addresses in Great Neck, N.Y., bought the property at 850 Hartford Turnpike from a commercial lender that foreclosed last year on a loan obtained by Simon Property Group.

    All of the entities ― Crystal Mall Realty LLC, Crystal Mall CH LLC and Crystal Nassim LLC ― filed May 30 with the Connecticut secretary of the state, and all listed Igal Namdar, chief executive officer of Namdar Realty Group, of Great Neck, as principal.

    According to its website, Namdar Realty owns more than 250 retail properties in 34 U.S. states, including more than 60 malls. Since 2019, it’s acquired three malls in Connecticut: Enfield Square, the Meriden Mall and, most recently, the Trumbull Mall. All of them have continued to operate as malls.

    The Crystal Mall purchase price was $9,527,500, according to the deed.

    Paige Walton, the town’s assessor, said Friday that based on her preliminary reading of the deed, Namdar bought Crystal Mall’s 535,500-square-foot main section, which encompasses 82 acres, as well as the property’s freestanding LongHorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden restaurants.

    The purchase does not include the mall’s former Sears location, which was auctioned separately last month, with a buyer offering a winning bid of nearly $4 million. That buyer has yet to be identified.

    A former Macy’s space at the mall, including a parking area, is owned by an entity that bought it for $4 million in 2021.

    No Namdar representative has yet made contact with the town, Jonathan Mullen, Waterford’s planning director, said Friday.

    “I know what you know about them,” Mullen said. “Their strategy has been to hold pat. … We don’t know what they’re planning. There’s been no indication.”

    “The town will look to be a good partner with the new owners of the mall,” he said.

    First Selectman Rob Brule, who was unavailable Friday, said earlier in the week that he was anxious to learn the identity of Crystal Mall’s new owners. He said he wanted to see a “repurposing” of the property that mixed commercial and residential components.

    “Given the demographics, the location ― it's an incredible location ― near public transportation, I-95, I-395,” Brule said. “If we can have a vision of what we want there, I think the Planning and Zoning Commission would entertain quite a few things.”

    He said the site is “perfect” for affordable housing.

    Tony Sheridan, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut and a former first selectman of Waterford, also has been a proponent of repurposing Crystal Mall.

    “It’s ideally suited for mixed-use development,” he said earlier this week. “Some of it will need to be pulled down.”

    Struggling mall properties across the country have been changing hands at a rapid pace in recent years, with consumers’ growing preference for online shopping and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic cited as reasons for the decline of the traditional mall.

    According to published reports, Namdar and a partner, Elliot Nassim, founder of Mason Asset Management, have been buying up troubled U.S. shopping malls for a little more than a decade.

    “Igal Namdar has made a fortune buying shopping malls no one else wants,” Bloomberg News reported in 2021. “... The formula for Namdar Realty Group and partner firm Mason Asset Management is to recruit down-market retailers to fill vacancies while holding down costs by limiting debt and capital-improvement spending.”

    In an e-mail Friday evening, Nassim said he would be happy to comment Monday.

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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