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    Tuesday, June 18, 2024

    Namdar says it could sell or redevelop Crystal Mall

    An aerial view of the Crystal Mall in Waterford on Tuesday, June 20, 2023. (Peter Huoppi/The Day)
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    Waterford ― Crystal Mall’s owner is considering selling the Route 85 property or joining with a partner to redevelop it.

    Namdar Realty Group, the Long Island-based mall giant, briefly addressed its plans for the mall following news earlier in the week about its agreement to sell another of its properties in Connecticut, the Enfield Square mall, to a Nebraska developer that would demolish it in favor of a $250 million redevelopment featuring housing, hotels and a new retail component.

    Responding to questions The Day directed to Dan Dilmanian, Namdar’s chief operating officer, Namdar emailed a statement Thursday through UpSpring, a public relations agency.

    “We are currently exploring a number of different options for Crystal Mall, including a potential sale, as well as potential joint venture redevelopment partnerships,” the email said. “We've remained in close communication with Waterford town officials through this process and look forward to sharing more details on the future of Crystal Mall once plans have been finalized.”

    First Selectman Rob Brule did not respond Friday to messages seeking comment about Crystal Mall.

    Namdar, which also owns malls in Meriden and Trumbull, had been largely silent, at least publicly, since acquiring Crystal Mall at auction a year ago, paying slightly more than $9.5 million for 535,500 square feet of retail space. The purchase did not include parcels formerly occupied by two of the mall’s one-time anchors, Sears and Macy’s, which departed in 2018 and 2021, respectively.

    The former Sears space was acquired late last year at auction by a New York City-based real estate investment and development company while a Tennessee developer owns the former Macy’s location.

    About 60% occupied when Namdar bought it, Crystal Mall has continued to shed tenants.

    The mall’s last remaining anchor store, JCPenney, is set to close after business May 26, the day before Memorial Day. Other recently announced departures include Rue21, a national clothing chain that declared bankruptcy earlier this month, and Cohen’s Fashion Optical, another chain, which is relocating its Crystal Mall outlet to the nearby Waterford Commons.

    Officials from Woodsonia Real Estate, the Omaha, Neb.-based developer proposing to redevelop Enfield Square, described the project, Enfield Marketplace, to the north central Connecticut town’s council last Monday night.

    Drew Snyder, Woodsonia’s president, told the council the town’s longstanding relationship with Namdar ― Woodsonia has redeveloped multiple Namdar-owned properties ― led it to Enfield.

    “We have quite a bit of experience in mall redevelopment,” Snyder said.

    He said Enfield Square, among the “zombie malls” identified in a 2023 Wall Street Journal article about dying U.S. malls, was probably in the worst shape of any Namdar property brought to Woodsonia’s attention. Purchased by Namdar for less than $11 million in 2019, the 780,000-square-foot mall’s current occupancy is about 15%.

    Woodsonia’s plan to turn the property into 450 luxury, multifamily apartments, two hotels, restaurants and 165,000 square feet of new retail space hinges on the developers securing $20 million in community investment funds from the state as well as $6 million for an environmental cleanup of the site.

    Without the public funding, Snyder said, the project will not go forward.

    Earlier this year, developers went public with a $425 million redevelopment plan for the Westbrook Outlets, an open-air shopping center 20 miles west of Crystal Mall. Proposed by Hartford-based Lexington Partners in a partnership with the outlets’ owner, the project calls for leveling what’s there and replacing it with a mix of housing, retail and entertainment.

    The project depends on state approval of a proposed subsurface sewage disposal system, the developers have said.

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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