3 malls, 3 fates for Boule­vard, East­ern Hills, Sum­mit

The Buffalo News - - BUSINESS -

Peo­ple al­ways mean it as a com­pli­ment, but it’s the death knell for any re­tailer. “I like to shop there. It’s never crowded.” That’s what they used to say about the Sum­mit Park Mall be­fore it closed. And that’s what peo­ple have said for the past few years about the East­ern Hills and Boule­vard malls.

For­tu­nately, for all three, there’s rein­car­na­tion ahead. With en­closed malls falling out of fa­vor, devel­op­ers have had to get cre­ative, re­think­ing the vast retail spa­ces. Here’s how.

Boule­vard Mall. Lo­cal real es­tate de­vel­oper Nick Si­na­tra and a group of in­vestors had the win­ning bid of $24 mil­lion in the on­line auction of the Boule­vard Mall ear­lier this month. Sur­rounded by fa­vor­able de­mo­graph­ics on a highly traf­ficked cor­ner, it’s a valu­able piece of real es­tate.

Si­na­tra told The News he’ll keep the mall run­ning as is for now, but even­tu­ally plans

to turn it “in­side out,” cre­at­ing a “walk­a­ble vil­lage.” In sev­eral phases, he’ll turn the prop­erty into a town cen­ter with hous­ing, build­ing along Ni­a­gara Falls Boule­vard and Maple Road.

There’s no word as to when he ex­pects work to start or how long the first phase might take. The hous­ing would ap­peal to peo­ple age 55 and older, as well as Uni­ver­sity at Buf­falo stu­dents.

East­ern Hills Mall. Much to its ben­e­fit, East­ern Hills has been hard at work on the town cen­ter con­cept for years. Be­ing first to mar­ket will be a ma­jor ad­van­tage: some peo­ple think West­ern New York can only sup­port one town cen­ter.

Hit hard by na­tional clo­sures and with leas­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions hurt by the com­ing changes, East­ern Hills is in a weird state of limbo. Take a stroll through the East­ern Hills Mall and you’ll get a strong, late-stage Sum­mit Mall vibe.

Still, the mall is do­ing an ad­mirable job keep­ing things go­ing with its lo­cal re­tail­ers. It’s got restau­rants, a mas­sive BFLO Gallery & Gifts store and an Air­soft course com­ing – and that’s just at its for­mer Sears store. Cre­ative leas­ing like that is what makes it the only lo­cal mall with­out an empty an­chor ten­ant (most of which are owned and con­trolled by an out­side en­tity).

Be­tween the mall’s man­age­ment, its own­er­ship, and the de­sign firm it has in place, it has the right vi­sion for the fu­ture. Now it just needs $200 mil­lion to bring it all to life.

The Sum­mit. For most of us, the be­lea­guered place ex­ists only as a fond mem­ory. But if its own­ers can get it done, the Sum­mit will rise again as a sports and entertainment venue.

Big Thun­der Brewing Co., a mi­cro­brew­ery and restau­rant, is planned for the for­mer Save-A-Lot store, and two 96,000-square-foot, out­door sports fa­cil­i­ties may be built along the out­side of the mall to host vol­ley­ball, base­ball, soccer, softball and lacrosse events. There would be an out­door bar be­side four out­door vol­ley­ball courts. Parker’s Proper Fish & Chips restau­rant, which closed on South Park Av­enue in Septem­ber, also plans to re­lo­cate there.

But there is a lot of space left to fill. The mall has a to­tal of 800,000 square feet and 570 acres around it. And it has seen set­back after set­back, from van­dal­ism to lost tax cred­its. Only time will tell how things turn out, but every­one is pulling for its suc­cess.

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