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Leominster Mall revitalization underway to attract new tenants, including entertainment center

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Leominster — The Mall at Whitney Field owners are keeping their promise to revitalize the property. Plans are underway to add new carpets, lighting and walls for a fresh new look, as well as a family entertainment center. It will arrive early next year.

As part of the ongoing revitalization process of the Leominster estate, the Twin Cities and landmarks and sights beyond are displayed in wall murals at The Mall in Whitney Field. (Daniel Ray/Sentinel & Enterprise)

John Mulherin, vice president of Hull Property Group, which took over ownership of the mall in December 2019, said: You can create a really great retail product for your next use. “

Headquartered in Augusta, Georgia, Hull owns 30 malls nationwide. The company’s specialty is turning declining shopping malls into profitable entities again following the successful “programmatic method.”

“When we first came here, we talked about the process of buying a struggling mall property. Some even say it’s a failed mall property,” Mulherin said. rice field. “There are no properties more hated in America than closed malls. There are so many variables, and so are people’s shopping patterns and interests. You need a specific skill set, it’s our niche market and we have the skill set to do that.”

He said the tried-and-true formula followed by each property acquired with the goal of bringing them back to life, so to speak, involves three steps: stabilization, transformation, and rearrangement.

“If you’ve been to one of our facilities, you’ve been to all of them.

To stabilize a property like The Mall at Whitney Field, which locals in the know still call Searstown, they need to “have the right tenant mix.”

“Who will survive, and who will not, can be quickly identified by how they are inventoried and capitalized,” says Mulherin. “Sometimes we have to remove band-aids to evict tenants who are not functioning efficiently.”

Landmarks and sights from the Twin Cities and beyond are displayed in wall murals at The Mall at Whitney Field as part of the ongoing renewal process of the Leominster estate.  (Daniel Ray/Sentinel & Enterprise)
As part of the ongoing revitalization process of the Leominster estate, the Twin Cities and landmarks and sights beyond are displayed in wall murals at The Mall in Whitney Field. (Daniel Ray/Sentinel & Enterprise)

Several stores in the mall have closed in the last few years. Among them is Sears, the original anchor store and inspiration for its previous name. Macy’s, another large anchor store. Christopher & Banks; Victims of the perfect storm that is the landscape of retail and the pandemic’s massive shift. Burlington Court Factory, JCPenney and Old Navy are the remaining flagship stores, while Hull welcomes new tenants and returning customers who fit seamlessly into the mall’s overall landscape.

The second step in the formula, transformation, is something that happened recently.

“You have to break the perception of failure and struggle,” Mulherin said. “Lay the carpet, turn on the lights, hide the vacancies and what’s there turns a negative into a positive.”

Pristine white walls give way to empty storefronts, and walls adorned with large colorful photographs and murals at Johnny Law Veterans Memorial Park, Shoran Farms, Leominster Fire Station, Cornerstone Ranch in Princeton, and downtown Mary’s Stirling. Celebrate all things local, including the little lamb statue on the mountain, Mount Wachusett.

“The pull-down gate with the ‘for rent’ sign screams empty,” Mulherin said. “Build a wall, paint it, put up a mural in your community and make a positive change. We are sending a very clear message to the community that we have an Owner-Operator who can help us.”

Johnny Law Veterans Memorial Park is one of several local landmarks depicted in the wall photographs and murals of The Mall in Whitney Field, part of the ongoing Leominster estate revitalization process .  (Daniel Ray/Sentinel & Enterprise)
Johnny Law Veterans Memorial Park is one of several local landmarks depicted in the wall photographs and murals of The Mall in Whitney Field, part of the ongoing Leominster estate revitalization process . (Daniel Ray/Sentinel & Enterprise)

He said this was a “critical part” of the regeneration process.

What’s more, he didn’t want to name the exact person.

“It costs a lot to do this kind of work,” he said. “We call it a sacrificial investment.

“Like Whitney, we raise the ceiling 1.5 feet where we hang pendant lights,” Mulherin continued. “It’s not the number of lumens that matters, it’s the consistency of the lighting. It’s psychologically safe, it’s like a parking lot with lights. People come in and say they just feel different. A lot of attention is paid to change.”

He said it’s also the reason for most of the mall’s floors to have light-colored carpet, as it “lightens up the property.”

“It transforms the atmosphere we are trying to create into this lovely, light and airy property. I think.”

The final piece of the formula puzzle is to reposition the mall. Mulherin said that when Starbucks decides where to go from 20 to 20 he makes a 30-year commitment, they want to make sure that what’s around them doesn’t ruin the business.

“No property acts as an island. It works with surrounding properties,” he said. “We want to provide the opportunity to bring new tenants into the mall and the outer lots. Malls are big properties, and if that property fails, everything around it will be adversely affected. , meaning to other property owners around it.”

Gardner Outlet Furniture at The Mall at Whitney field has moved to where Macy's once stood, and Launch Entertainment is set to open in the space early next year.  (Daniel Ray/Sentinel & Enterprise)
Gardner Outlet Furniture at The Mall at Whitney field has moved to where Macy’s once stood, and Launch Entertainment is set to open in the space early next year. (Daniel Ray/Sentinel & Enterprise)

Gardner Outlet Furniture moved into the space that once housed Macy’s, he said, “expanding their business is a sign that they are comfortable and will have a huge store.”

Launch Entertainment franchisees Mark and Christine Emma aim to open their sixth Launch location in the state in late fall, after Gardner Outlet Furniture moved into the space that housed Toys R Us years ago. I’m here. Includes trampoline, 8 lanes of bowling, virtual reality activities, ninja course and rock wall, dodgeball, basketball dunk lane, complete arcade, birthday party room, Krave restaurant, and Bar Hops beverage service.

Opening a business in Leominster, where Mark Emma grew up, means something special to the family. They now live in Lunenburg with their 12-year-old son.

“After years of searching for a way to bring north-central Massachusetts to life, Christine and I finally realized there was a lack of a safe and fun environment where friends and family could gather and spend time together year-round.” Mark Emma said. “Opening the Launch Family Entertainment Center, Launch Leominster, seemed like the perfect fit. I have found something.”

Mulherin said they are now in a position to “bring potential tenants back to the mall,” including Launch and other companies they are working with.

“Here, for sure, we would have liked to have done this sooner, but we got caught up in the pandemic,” he said. It’s a great testament to leadership that allows us to participate and work and it’s still viable.

Hull Property Group is a major investor in The Mall at Whitney Field. This is part of an ongoing revitalization process to attract new tenants.  (Daniel Ray/Sentinel & Enterprise)
Hull Property Group is a major investor in The Mall at Whitney Field. This is part of an ongoing revitalization process to attract new tenants. (Daniel Ray/Sentinel & Enterprise)

When asked about examples of other malls Hull has been able to revive, Mulherin cites properties in Alabama, Georgia and Texas, but just a few places where those formulas have proven successful. I mentioned.

“It’s all demand-driven, and we think there’s additional demand for renovations and relocations, and it’s pretty good to open that door,” he said of Whitney Field. It’s positioned and something we can pitch to potential customers.We have a great offer.”

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