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Sears closure raises more questions about Concord Mall's future

Delaware Public Media

Two weeks ago, we looked at Concord Mall’s change in ownership and what that could mean for the North Wilmington shopping center.

Now, new developments involving two of its anchor stores are adding more uncertainty.

Contributor Eileen Dallabrida offers an update on what we know about what’s next for Concord Mall.


Less than a month after Concord Mall was sold by its longtime owner, Sears confirmed it will close its anchor store at the landmark North Wilmington shopping center.Meanwhile, Macy’s announced it will shutter one-fifth of its department stores, part of a strategy to exit fading malls. Macy’s will disclose those locations over the next two years, based, in part, on how each store performs. Sears and Macy’s anchor the 800,000-square-foot mall along with Boscov’s.

Sears will hold going-out-of-business sales over the next few months but the future of the bricks-and-mortar space on the south end of the mall is unclear. Sears owns the two-story 174,172-square-foot space, which was not part of the sale by Wilmington-based Allied Properties to Namdar Realty Group, a leading buyer of distressed shopping centers.

Elliot Nassim, who leads Namdar affiliate Mason Asset Management, said the wheels are in motion for finding a new occupant for the anchor.

"Unfortunately, Sears has chosen to close its location at the Concord Mall, notifying staff this week of the decision,” he said. “While we are certainly disappointed, we are already in conversations with a number of potential tenants that are looking forward to the opportunity to fill this vacancy.”

Additionally, Seritage Growth Properties, a spinoff of Sears Holdings, is actively re-leasing spaces owned by Sears and its subsidiary Kmart. New and proposed tenants include hotels, restaurants and entertainment centers. Current Seritage holdings include the Super Kmart on Route 1 in Rehoboth Beach, which is closing this month. Seritage representative Matt Fernand was not immediately available for comment on Concord Mall.

Anchors away

Founded in 1893 and once known as Where America Shops, Sears has closed hundreds of stores in recent years, including locations in Dover and Prices Corner in Wilmington. Prices Corner has found a new tenant for the spot, which will become a Target. In Niles, Ohio, the exiting Sears at Eastwood Mall was replaced with Boscov’s, a family-owned specialty retailer that is in expansion mode.

In a challenging retail market, alternative tenants are increasingly repurposing anchors. In New York, Saratoga Hospital relocated its 300-person IT and electronic records staff to a vacant Sears at Wilton Mall. At the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, the Sears space was split in half to accommodate two new tenants, Dicks Sporting Goods and Dave & Buster’s restaurant and entertainment center.

Allied, which bought the mall in 2000, had announced plans in 2017 to transform the property into a mixed-use destination for retail, dining and entertainment. But the company opted to walk away from Concord rather than make a multi-million dollar investment in a volatile retail climate.

‘De-malling’ is an option

The mixed-use concept was compatible with a proposal in the Concord Master Plan initiative that calls for rebuilding the stream bed behind the mall and installing bike and pedestrian paths that would make is easy for people who live in the corridor to pedal or walk to the shopping center to dine or shop.

While government doesn’t have a say as to who owns the mall, it’s essential for people in the community to make their wishes known as to how it is maintained and developed, said Dee Durham (D-District 2), New Castle County Council representative.

“The sale makes it even more important for the public to participate in the Concord Master Plan initiative,” she said. “If and when the mall is redeveloped, the community will have more input into what takes its place.”

The new owners said they are evaluating various possibilities for the mall.

“We are still currently exploring all possible redevelopment options –– including de-malling, as well as alternative uses for the existing space,” Nassim said. “That said, any demolition of the mall would require approval from a number of different stakeholders involved and would not be a decision made hastily.” 

In development-speak, “de-malling” is defined as transitioning from a traditional indoor center with a few anchor stores to an open-air shopping experience, where every retailer or service provider has an individual storefront with access to parking and pedestrian walkways.

Based in Long Island, the new owners are leaders in buying distressed malls. Namdar currently owns 137 malls and has yet to invest in a comprehensive mall makeover. Its most recent upgrade is replacing a shuttered AMC theater with VIP Cinemas, a family-owned, independent eight-screen theater, at University Mall in Carbondale, Illinois.

In addition to new maintenance and security personnel, Namdar brought in a general manager, Tom Dahlke, who said the owners want to build bridges with merchants and the community.

"We want to ensure both our current tenants and our community members that we are committed to once again making the mall a destination for our town, as well as those that travel here for our tax-free shopping,” he said. “To that end, we are already in conversation with new tenants, and are working to identify additional opportunities under this new ownership."

Property with potential

Nassim said Namdar was attracted to Concord Mall because of its central location on busy Route 202 and proximity to communities.

“Our decision to move forward with the purchase was a direct reflection of our evaluation of the property’s potential,” he said.

In published reports, Namdar has been taken to task for neglecting properties. In Hastings, Nebraska, Namdar bought the near-vacant Imperial Mall for $1 million. It was ordered closed last May by the local fire marshal after Namdar failed to get the building up to code, according to the Hastings Tribune.

In December 2017, the municipality of Brookhaven, New York, issued 18 citations to Namdar for failing to remove rubble and fix potholes at the Mastic Shopping Center, according to the Long Island Advance.

On July 1, the City of Mansfield, Ohio, sent Namdar a condemnation order for the West Side Center, citing safety concerns regarding canopies, electrical signs, exposed wiring on lights in the parking lot, broken storefront windows and other issues, said the Mansfield News Journal. Namdar promptly fixed the larger safety problems but said tenants were responsible for such items as maintaining sprinkler systems in their stores.

At Concord Mall, the new owners said they are intent on improving the shopping center.

“It is our goal to bring in new and alternative tenants –– repositioning the property and allowing the surrounding neighborhood to benefit,” Nassim said. “As a company, we always strive to create efficient retail hubs that generate revenue and reinvigorate the communities within which we operate.”








Eileen Smith Dallabrida has written for Delaware Public Media since 2010. She's also written for USA Today, National Geographic Traveler, the Christian Science Monitor and many other news outlets.
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