By Charles Schelle | ImYourChuck on WordPress
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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. — The Valley Mall in Hagerstown, Md., will see about a dozen changes this year as it continues its redevelopment to focus on adding restaurants and experiential retail to cater to millennials.
I covered these in separate posts on my Facebook page and will condense it all here. There’s a lot going on as retailers are shuffling around to fit in all of these changes.
Here’s what’s coming and then I’ll go into how this all makes sense. The information comes from both Washington County Department of Planning records and a leasing brochure for the mall from its owner Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, or PREIT.
- Mission BBQ
- Torrid [UPDATE 3/21/17: Torrid files for building permit]
- Pandora jewelers
- National Tire and Battery [Update 3/21/17: NTB files for building permit]
- Unnamed restaurant
- Unnamed retailer in half of Sears’ space
- H&M (this has been known for months but just as a reminder)
- [UPDATE 6/14: BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse to replace former Sears Auto]
- Journeys and Journeys Kidz
- Tobacco Den
- Allegany Optical
- Sears Auto Center (closed in May) [See above for update]
- Potentially half of Sears’ department store
The former Susquehanna Bank near the Sears entrance and current Tobacco Den space is being carved out for several projects, creating three spaces along the mall’s facade to continue a town center look.
Mission BBQ and the Valley Mall have now filed a building permit for its construction for the new restaurant on Thursday, according to county records, in part of that space. It will be located next to the mall entrance.
The 4,000-square-foot restaurant will feature an outdoor patio and will be open 11 a.m. to 9 .m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, according to the permit application.
The restaurant anticipates hiring 20 employees, according to the permit application. No opening date has been announced. This is a fast-casual, military-themed restaurant with a service line similar to Subway and Chipotle. The first location opened Sept. 11, 2011, which is intentional as it gives back to local and national first-responder and military charities.
Mission BBQ is a Maryland success story, opening its first location in Glen Burnie and has quickly expanded to nine other states. It’s kind of a shame that it took this long for a Maryland restaurant this good to expand here.
Full figured women’s clothing store Torrid will open in the mall between Rue 21 and GameStop, according to a lease brochure.
The California-based retailer sells trendy clothing for women sizes 10 to 30 and started out as a Hot Topic-owned store and since spun off into its own company.
No permits have been filed to start work on Torrid’s space so it may be fall until this store opens.
If you’re facing the mall from the parking lot, Allegany Optical will go into a new space with an external entrance, according to county records and a mall leasing brochure.
The eyewear specialist is in a temporary location now because it was pushed out as part of a relocation and expansion of American Eagle Outfitters, which includes its underwear shop Aerie. AEO is taking up several spaces where Suncoast Video was years ago and goes all the way back toward the entrance beside Sears where local urban clothing retailers filled space along with Allegany Optical.
Rounding out the frontage is cell phone store nTelos, which is moving from its corner wedge unit near Sears to the front of the mall to make way for Pandora.
So, Tobacco Den has permitting work going on now for a space in the J.C. Penney wing between Picture People and Pause! Nails and Day Spa. That helped open up the front space for redevelopment.
Over the last couple years, several tenants like Lane Bryant had their leases expire and others moved elsewhere in the mall, including Country Treasures, to help accommodate the nearly 21,000-square-foot H&M coming this fall.
Compared to five years ago, the Valley Mall looks like a new place.
Plans appear to be in motion for a Sears redevelopment, but there are many unanswered questions.
The biggest piece of this puzzle is that commercial real estate agency KLNB posted a flyer offering 48 percent of Sears for redevelopment along with the entire Sears Auto Center.
The 123,400-square-foot Sears would be reduced in half, down to 57,00 square feet with 52,325 square feet being made available for redevelopment. Likely, no entrance will be shared with the existing Sears.
Why shrink the store space instead of close it? A few things are in play here.
Sears owns its own real estate space at the mall, but there are other business considerations they have to take into account. Let’s focus on the department store first.
If the Sears would have closed, it would cause complications for the mall. Some stores have triggers in their lease contracts that say if a mall loses so many anchors, it can leave without penalty. Macy’s is already closed. A Sears closure would only leave The Bon-Ton and J.C. Penney. And with how department stores are struggling nowadays, who knows how quickly a third could go. Some stores may have a threshold of two. Others may have a threshold of three leaving.
Shrinking the Sears helps avoid this problem, as there are likely conversations taking place with the mall’s landlords. One possible scenario is that a mall can recapture space if a store is underperforming. Certain situations allow this to happen for anchors–again, unknown if that’s what’s going on for Sears.
What is clear is that Sears and Valley Mall are eager to help each other. Other malls who have recaptured a portion of an anchor have brought in a Nordstrom Rack, CineBistro or Whole Foods. I don’t think you’ll see CineBistro or Whole Foods there. But it will have to be something unique to the market.
Customers are saying Sears already eliminated its electronics section, so some movement may be coming here. Stay tuned to find out who’s coming!
The Sears Auto Center situation will likely be resolved soon. The repair shop closed this month, and some say the space have already been sold but no records have appeared to be recorded online yet. What will replace it? Again stay tuned.
NTB, better known as National Tire and Battery, is making its way to come to the mall’s ring road between Burger King and Chuck E. Cheese.
Valley Mall filed for a variance earlier this year to turn that existing green space between Chuck E Cheese and Burger King into a separate commercial lot without connecting the lot directly to Massey Boulevard. The variance was approved by Washington County’s Planning Department in January.
Makes sense considering they were planning Sears Auto Center to close and be redeveloped.
Mystery Restaurant and Macy’s
One other nugget of note on the leasing brochure is a proposed 8,000-square-foot restaurant without a name attached to it. No permits have been filed for this either.
The leasing brochure shows it would be in the east Penney’s parking lot, bumped out from space reserved for a “alternate future expansion 34,608 square feet.” I’d be sure that expansion would be held for in-line tenants and not a bigger Penney’s. These reserved expansion areas are common for malls. They may happen in 20 years or never.
No records turn up either for work on the vacant Macy’s
There is a photo circulating on Facebook in a group called ChamberRant that I call B.S. on.
The photo shows an aerial of the mall property that is seen on PREIT’s site for Valley Mall and in the leasing brochure, but unlike these photos, Belk’s logo is placed where Macy’s store is.
I don’t believe this will or would happen for a few reasons. Belk was just sold last year because it’s struggling. It’s no longer a public company with family owners. There is a slim possibility that it could have agreed to take over the space before the company was sold, but I don’t buy it.
The company has closed stores but managed to open a new one in 2014 in Texas. Also, the footprint of the stores are closer to a Bon-Ton than a Macy’s.
I find the timing of the photo odd in that it was published the day PREIT unveiled its new site. Believe me, I looked over that site and the same photos and Belk didn’t appear there as I posted news about the mall on the same day. Google’s image and reverse image seach showed nothing. No cached version of that photo exists. (And the poster’s name appears to be fake. Ben Chambers? Ben as in Ben Franklin [Franklin County] and Chambers as in Chambersburg?)
My best educated guess at what will happen to Macy’s is to have something interactive there. Folks on my Facebook posts hope it will be something like Dave and Busters.
Those Facebook fans are thinking along the same lines as me, but nothing as huge as a D&B. Hagerstown can’t support something like that. Can’t support a Medieval Times either.
A couple of PREIT’s properties, including Logan Valley Mall in Altoona, Pa., have something similar to a D&B called Tilt Studio. That could be a possibility, but I don’t think it could take up the entire space. It would be more kid friendly than the adult oriented D&B, which could either help or hurt Chuck E Cheese beside the Valley Mall.
I’m spitballing here, but with the emphasis on experiential retail and destination dining and entertainment at malls, something like the upscale bowling alleys Splitsville, Pinstripes or Lucky Strike would do well on that site. The space would likely have to be considerably renovated to do this.
Hagerstown is somewhat familiar with this format at Seven Ten in Longmeadow, which is an independently owned upscale bowling concept with food and drink service at the lanes. The venue is opening a nightclub there called Suite 710 in June. But I think people around here might like the consistency a chain would provide for this concept.
Another option is asking Regal Cinemas to redevelop Macy’s as one of its “wine, dine and recline” theaters. Regal has mainly retrofitted some of its existing theaters with this concept featuring leather recliners, table trays and a full-service bar. Maybe this is a way to keep the theater fully open while building a new one. Even if this redevelopment doesn’t happen, it is beyond time to bring the leather recliners to the Valley Mall cinema.
So, there you have it. That’s what’s going on at the mall for now. More posts coming soon.