With new owner in place, concerns remain over future of Stratford Square Mall
The new owner of Stratford Square Mall is looking to get money from a 1% sales tax on all purchases at the Bloomingdale shopping center.
But village officials say Namdar Realty Group won't receive monthly payments from the business district where the special sales tax is collected until after the company presents a plan to turn around the struggling mall.
"We are extremely concerned" about the viability of the mall, Village Administrator Pietro Scalera said. "The village is anxious to receive something from the new owners that shows their plan of action to deal with the property."
Stratford was ailing long before shopping centers throughout Illinois were forced to close because of state-imposed restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus. It had lost four anchor stores within six years, including Sears, Carson's and Macy's.
In addition, there was a growing number of smaller stores closing inside the mall at the southeast corner of Gary Avenue and Schick Road.
"The future outlook does not look good for the mall," Scalera said.
Stratford's previous owner -- StreetMac LLC -- was planning to spend more than $42 million to improve the mall, including landscaping, pavement work and upgrades to entrances. The company was hoping to attract new retail, entertainment and restaurants to fill the empty spaces.
But in October, the mall was acquired by Namdar Realty -- a commercial real estate investment firm based in Long Island, New York. The company declined to disclose the purchase price.
Elliot Nassim of Mason Asset Management, which partners with Namdar Realty Group, said the company acquired Stratford because it's a well-located shopping destination in a great market.
"It is always our goal to add value to our properties and we are excited about the opportunity to continue doing so with Stratford Square Mall," Nassim said in an email response to questions from the Daily Herald. "We look forward to sharing announcements in the coming months."
Scalera said StreetMac never told Bloomingdale officials the mall was for sale. The village didn't know it was sold until after the deal closed.
With a new owner in the mix, village officials want to know what's next for the mall.
"We are back to the beginning and working with a new ownership group to try and identify what their plans are for the mall and how they're going to fill the vacancies," Scalera said.
To recoup some of its investment, StreetMac was receiving payments from the Stratford Business District, which is the area where the extra 1% sales tax is collected. Bloomingdale established the district in 2007.
Last year, the business district generated less than $1 million. Almost all that money went to StreetMac to help cover the cost of improvements.
But there's a limit on how much money can be paid out before the tax ends in 2030. Since it was implemented, the village has paid roughly $12.8 million toward the $20 million cap.
Namdar Realty has asked the village to transfer the monthly payments to its company. But village board members say they won't approve the assignment until the village receives a plan from Namdar.
When asked about planned improvements to the mall, Nassim pointed to the construction of a new Woodman's Food Market.
Woodman's is planning to build a stand-alone grocery store on roughly 19 acres near the intersection of Schick and Gary. To make room for the 243,000-square-foot building, a former Macy's and part of the mall has been demolished.
Nassim said the Woodman's should be open next year. He also said Namdar Realty is working with the village on plans for the former J.C. Penney store, which has been shuttered since 2014.
"We should be able to announce those plans in the next couple of months," Nassim said. "Ultimately, our vision is to work with city leadership to transform the mall into a premier regional destination and flourishing center of community life, where residents and visitors shop, work, live and play."
He said Namdar Realty is committed to ensuring the success of Stratford Square.
"We are working hard to find the right mix of tenants that will best serve the local community," Nassim said, "and we look forward to sharing those developments as information becomes available."