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Appraised value of Eastview Mall and Eastview Commons falls

Eastview Mall and Eastview Commons in Victor. (RBJ file photo)

The most recent appraisal for Eastview Mall and Eastview Commons in Victor shows the value of the property has declined more than 70 percent since the current loan on the property was issued 10 years ago.

Trepp reported in Friday’s The Weekly Commercial Real Estate Direct newsletter that the mall and adjacent commons were appraised at $101 million earlier this month, compared to $368 million when Wilmorite took out the refinancing loan on the 51-year-old mall in 2012. A total of $210 million is owed on the property, Trepp records show.

Just over 810,000 square feet of the 1.7 million square foot property serves as collateral for the loan, which is securitized mostly through COMM 2012-CCRE4.

While the loan was scheduled to mature in September, Trepp reported the loan continues pay as though it hasn’t reached maturity. The loan requires interest-only payments at 4.625 percent, and that the principal of $120 million remains.

Trepp’s Loan Property Detail spreadsheet shows the special servicer anticipates an extension of the loan, likely to be finalized by the end of January. Wilmorite executed similar refinancing on the Mall at Greece Ridge in 2021.

Things Remembered, JD Sports, OFFLINE by Aerie, Showcase are among the stores to open in the mall since the summer.

Trepp is a provider of information, analytics and services to the structured finance, commercial real estate and banking markets.

In May, Fitch Ratings designated the Eastview Mall and Eastview Commons loan as a Fitch Loans of Concern. That played into Fitch’s downgrading from stable to negative of Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc’s COMM 2012-CCRE4 commercial mortgage pass-through certificates, Fitch said in a rating action commentary.

Mall devaluation is taking place across the country. New York’s largest mall, Destiny USA in Syracuse, was, by some reports, appraised at around $147 million compared to the $715 million it was valued at in 2014. Facing default, mall owner Pyramid Management Group of Syracuse  worked out a five-year loan extension in June.

Palisades Mall, in the Rockland County hamlet of West Nyack, dropped more than 50 percent. In Bossier City, La., the Pierre Bossier Mall that once was appraised at $69 million, was recently appraised at $7.5 million, Trepp reported.

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Shorter shopping season may help local retailers

Shoppers will have a little less time for Christmas shopping this year if they follow the tradition of waiting until Thanksgiving is over to begin checking their lists.

Thanksgiving fell unusually late this year, cutting the season to just four weeks. But that may be good for some local shops, as last-minute shopping tends to be in-person shopping.

“Consumers tend to spend more at local brick-and-mortar retailers when they are pressed for time, said Ellen Ford, a marketing communications specialist with the San Francisco-based firm Womply. “E-commerce is certainly convenient, but it has a shelf life. The closer we get to a major holiday, the less realistic it is as an option.”

That should hearten local stores, even though other prognosticators describe online shopping behavior as growing more prevalent all the time. A study by Leanplum, a multi-channel engagement platform, said 95 percent of consumers are choosing to do at least half their holiday shopping online this year.

Still, local stores and shopping malls expect to do a major portion of their business between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year as always.

“We’re the perfect place for a last-minute gift. No question about that,” said Mike Kauffman, general manager of Eastview Mall.

Christmas decorations, holiday music and personal service give shoppers an experience they just can’t have online, local retailers said. Not to mention the ability to sit on Santa’s lap, smell a hand-made candle and meet an author before you buy their book.

“The future success (of brick-and-mortar stores) relies on entertainment and experiential situations that online and the internet just don’t provide,” Kauffman said.

Brockport's Lift Bridge Book Shop
Brockport’s Lift Bridge Book Shop

Shoppers can probably find books much cheaper online, says Lift Bridge Book Shop co-owner John Bonczyk but they just can’t find the personal service that a real, live, independent bookstore provides. They can come into a store like Lift Bridge and ask the staff for help picking out a book that will please a 10-year-old boy they know, even though they don’t know what the boy is into or like to read, he said.

The selection in the store reflects his and co-owner Sarah Bonczyk’s understanding of what the local community wants, rather than what publishers are promoting.

“No one sent me a box of books and said, ‘Sell these.’ I went through a box of books and said, ‘This one, this one and this one,’” Bonczyk said.

Local stores build relationships, even with people who aren’t regulars, he said.

“I know their life story by the time they leave,” Bonczyk said. “We’re almost therapy for a lot of people. People are starving for that connection. Our goal is to be welcoming to whomever you are, whatever you’re bringing in.”

Nevertheless, Lift Bridge has struggled because of the loss of local school-district book contracts, he said, and the owners are hoping this holiday shopping season will be strong enough to remain in business.

The Christmas season indeed can be enough to ensure a business’ success. Kauffman said Eastview gets about 30 percent of its revenue between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, a period that represents less than 17 percent of the calendar.

“It’s the biggest season of the year. It’s the make-or-break season,” said Jean Westcott, owner of The Artful Gardener on Mt. Hope Avenue. “If I don’t have a good holiday season, I go into the new year in the red.”

Westcott said she starts ordering from artists in August the one-of-a-kind goods she’ll sell in November and December. Besides hand-crafted gifts, including pottery, jewelry and candles, she sells gardening accents and provides garden design services.

“There’s always going to be people who just want to sit behind their computer and order for ease. I make no attempts to compete with that,” Westcott said. “I try to deliver an experience destination … I just make sure what I have isn’t something people can look at and then price compare online.”

The experience includes a garden walk during the warmer months, and in the store the sound of a flowing fountain, a Pandora music selection, and the scent of burning candles.

“I pay attention to the details of packaging, making it really pretty,” she said. “Hopefully when people see this bag that says The Artful Gardener, they’ll get excited about what’s inside.”

Both Westcott and Bonczyk said they are concerned about the shopping season being a shorter one this year.

“Based on past numbers, I think it really affects the bottom line when it’s a shorter season,” Westcott said. “Last year was the longest holiday season I have experienced and my numbers were the best in the 10 years I’ve been here.”

Kauffman, on the other hand, believes the season just telescopes to meet the amount of time people have.

“History has shown that when you have the shorter season, it really doesn‘t have any impact on the whole. It gets a little more condensed,” Kauffman said.

Using economic conditions and historical patterns, the National Retail Federation is predicting consumers will increase their spending this year by 3.8 to 4.2 percent. But weather patterns can have a big impact, warns AccuWeather, which adds weather into the predictive mix. AccuWeather recently downgraded its shopping increase prediction from 3.8 percent to 3.6 percent. An unusually warm October followed by an unusually cold November has already disrupted late-in-the-year shopping, particularly for coats and other cold-weather gear, the weather company asserted.

“Our estimate of 3.6 percent still reflects a healthy growth – it is above the average of the past four years,” said AccuWeather Founder and CEO Joel N. Myers. The previous years saw annual boosts of 3.4 percent.

Westcott is just hoping there won’t be too much snow. A big storm can shut down access to her shop for a couple of days, she said.

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New steakhouse opens at Eastview Mall

The owner of a high-end steak house in downtown Syracuse has just opened a second location at Eastview Mall.

Prime Steakhouse opens at Eastview Mall. Photo supplied.
Prime Steakhouse opens at Eastview Mall. (provided photo)

Prime Steakhouse took over the location vacated by Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano in April. The official opening was Friday, Dec. 28, but Prime began serving earlier in the month. The 8,600-square-foot restaurant offers lunches and dinners, a wine room and a private dining room for up to 60 guests.  Steaks and chops range from $32 to $64.

Prime’s Syracuse location has been operating since 2009 in the Gridley Building near Clinton Square.

The Victor restaurant’s website is not fully functional yet, but menus can be viewed on Eastview Prime’s Facebook page. For more information contact the restaurant at (585) 484-8895.

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Sheriffs and security at Eastview Mall share safety tips, assistance

Outgoing Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero, other law enforcement officials and security staff at Eastview Mall shared some safety and security tips for senior citizens at the mall this week.

The annual holiday shopping safety event was paired with the monthly Seniors and Lawmen Together (SALT) program that Povero began more than two decades ago. The mall frequently hosts SALT, which provides an informational program, physical exercise and a chance for dialogue.

Many of the tips shared by sheriff’s deputies and mall security amounted to often-heard, common-sense advice, such as keeping valuables and packages out of sight in cars, parking in well-lit areas and double checking to make sure cars are locked.

Perhaps less known was information Lt. Al D’Agostino, head of security at Eastview Mall, shared with the seniors gathered for the program Tuesday morning. He said they can rely on mall security for help with a number of situations, such as finding a car when the driver has forgotten where it is, retrieving keys locked inside a car, providing a jump for a dead battery, and escorting shoppers to their cars whether it’s day or night.

“Don’t feel like you’re imposing on us. That’s what we’re here to do,” D’Agostino said. He said mall visitors who need help can just come to the mall’s security office or ask for someone to be summoned. The phone number for assistance is (585) 223-2930.

Two sheriff’s deputies are routinely stationed at the mall, and the number increases during the busy holiday season, said the mall’s general manager, Mike Kauffman.

Povero said the last four or five years have been record low years for car break-ins at Eastview, and other deputies urged elders to make sure they report any suspicious activity.

Kauffman said security staff frequently patrol the mall’s parking lots in cars during cold weather and on bicycles in the warm months.  The holidays don’t present any unusual safety and security challenges, he said, other than there are many more people visiting, including some who are unfamiliar with the mall and may need assistance because of that.

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New Apples, new Apple store at Eastview

While Apple Inc. rolled out two new iPhones and a new Apple Watch Friday morning, Eastview Mall saw the opening of a brand-new Apple store, too.

Dozens of people lined up for the 8 a.m. opening at the Victor mall, when the new store’s doors – louvered glass walls — swung open for the first time. At 8:10 a.m. the line was still 40 people deep as store employees ushered a few customers in at a time when others left the store with new electronics in hand.

Eastview Mall's new Apple store. Photo by Diana Louise Carter
Eastview Mall’s new Apple store. (Photo by Diana Louise Carter)

The new store, which lies between the mall’s main entrance and Sears, is two doors down from the old one, and approximately twice the size. It occupies space that formerly housed a drugstore.

Apple released worldwide its new iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max and Apple Watch Series 4. The phones include larger screens and double cameras.

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Sears closing at Eastview

Sears, the last original anchor store at Eastview Mall, will be closing.

A spokesman for Sears Holding Co. said the closing date will be in November. The number of employees affected by the closing wasn’t immediately available.

The local store is one of 46 Sears and Kmart stores that the company listed this week as closing because they were “unprofitable.”

Dennis Wilmot, senior vice president of leasing and development for Wilmorite, the mall owner, called the closing “disappointing but not entirely unexpected.”

“Wilmorite has invested millions of dollars over the past two decades to keep the mall a vibrant super regional shopping destination.  The same cannot be said for the Sears store in Victor.”

Wilmot said the Sears store is one of 200 properties nationally owned by Seritage Growth Properties. “Seritage has successfully redeveloped many of these locations into vibrant retail complexes that complement and in most cases enhance the adjoining malls.”

Sears and Sibley’s were the two original anchor stores at the Victor mall when it opened in 1971. The store expanded at least once in its 47 years.

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Two malls get new tenants

Eastview Mall and The Mall at Greece Ridge are both getting some new tenants.

Sicilian Delight, which has restaurants in central and eastern New York, is opening up its first Rochester-area locations in the food courts at Eastview and Greece Ridge. In both cases, the restaurant will occupy locations that formerly held Mark’s Pizzeria restaurants. The menu focuses on pizza, calzones, and pasta.

At Eastview, Shaka, a restaurant focusing on healthy eating with poke bowls, salad bowls and burritos, has opened in the location formerly housing Plum House Express.

Greece Ridge will also be adding Podium, a locally owned store that sells accessories and shoes including brands such as Diesel, Moschino, New Era,  Nike and Jordan. Podium will be near Entrance 9 in the spot that Bestfit Menswear vacated so it could move elsewhere in the mall.

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New steakhouse coming to Eastview Mall

A Syracuse steakhouse has begun construction on its second location – the former Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano space at Eastview Mall in Victor.

Prime Steakhouse plans to open in late September or early October.

“We are looking forward to bringing a fresh new dining experience to the Rochester market. We hope to create an atmosphere where friends and family can enjoy exceptional service and superb appetizers, steaks and entrées,” said Dan Klamm, owner and partner in Prime Steakhouse.

“Being able to fill the Biaggi’s space so quickly with such a desirable tenant speaks volumes about the property, its appeal to potential tenants, and the mall’s future success,” said Mike Kauffman, general manager for the Ontario County mall. “A fine-dining steakhouse has been on our wish list for a while and we are looking forward to their opening this fall.”

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Biaggi’s replacement expected at Eastview

Eastview Mall expects to have an announcement soon about a new restaurant to replace Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano, which closed last week after nearly 15 years.

The Eastview Mall location was the only one this far east for Biaggi’s, with most of its locations clustered around Illinois and Indiana.

“I suspect the geographic isolation of Eastview from its locations in the Midwest contributed to its decision to close,” said Dennis Wilmot, senior vice president of leasing and development at Wilmorite, the mall owner and developer. “We are sorry to see them leave the area but anticipate an announcement will soon be coming on a replacement.”

When the restaurant first opened at Eastview, the sole location in New York was expected to be a springboard for an expansion into the Northeast, Wilmot said.

Wilmot directed customers holding Biaggi’s gift cards to contact the company’s corporate office at (309) 445-6639.

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Lululemon sets down roots at Eastview Mall

Popular yoga-wear retailer lululemon, which has maintained a holiday-season store at Eastview Mall for the last two years, has agreed to become a permanent tenant.

According to Wendy Roche, marketing director for the Wilmorite mall, lululemon stayed on after Christmas but will be moving into a store that had housed Bath & Body Works. That store is in the Sears wing  — as is the seasonal store — but closer to the Starbucks near the mall’s central entrance.  The space is currently being renovated and is expected to open this spring.

Bath & Body Works, meanwhile, has temporarily moved to the Von Maur wing while it waits for its old space to be renovated for lululemon; it will  take over lululemon’s seasonal space once that is also renovated.

In the midst of this big swap, Happy Earth Tea Company, started in Rochester’s South Wedge, has opened a Leaf tea shop at Eastview Mall as well. “We’re really excited to have them here,” Roche said.

The internationally recognized tea will be available in a store in the Sears wing near Pandora and Swarovski.

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Stores brace for Black Friday — or not

Walmart is scheduled to open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, but Black Friday deals will be available online starting at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. (Photo by Maximilian Franz)
Walmart is scheduled to open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, but Black Friday deals will be available online starting at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. (Photo by Maximilian Franz)

You can have your Thanksgiving turkey and holiday bargains, too.

Black Friday 2017 and the opening of the holiday shopping season seem a bit more sensible this year.

Some larger chains — Target and Walmart, for instance — are opening at 5 or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, then closing that same night until early the next morning. That contrasts with some previous years when some stores opened early on Thanksgiving and continued pretty much around the clock for two days.

And that’s still the model Toys R Us largely follows, opening at 5 p.m. Thanksgiving and not closing again until Saturday (Nov. 25) night.

Data from the National Retail Foundation indicates more than 180 million Americans shopped the Black Friday weekend in 2016, with half of them indicating the deals were just too good to pass up. Another third said they shop then because it’s a tradition.

But some retailers are offering an alternative to this shopping chaos. REI, the outdoors cooperative that opened its first store in the area in August, is closed on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday, encouraging people to #OptOutside and post photos online of their outdoor adventures instead of remaining inside shopping.

“We will absolutely still offer the deals for the holidays,” said REI Store Manager Emily Copland. Just not in stores on the day after Thanksgiving. “We will lose some sales, but we see more value in connecting our employees and customers and their loved ones with the outdoors.”

Some stores will skip Thanksgiving and just open a little early the next day.

“We consider ourselves an associate-friendly company and we are pleased to give associates the time to enjoy Thanksgiving with family and friends,” said Bethany Crocetti, corporate communications manager for the TJX Companies, which owns TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, Sierra Trading Post and Homesense, most of which will be open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Black Friday.

Crocetti said special deals aren’t being offered because these stores offer bargains all the time.

Artists and artisans at the Hungerford Building on 115 East Main St., meanwhile, have organized a mellower shopping experience called “Don’t Get Malled,” in which individual proprietors will open their studios in the former soda flavorings factory from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Black Friday and again on Small Business Saturday.

It’s still a national holiday about eating, though, and Wegmans will cater to last-minute and forgetful Thanksgiving shoppers on Thanksgiving Day until 4 p.m., then shut the doors that are normally open 24 hours a day and not reopen them until 7 a.m. on Black Friday.

Wegmans will close at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving and reopen at 7 a.m. on Black Friday. (Provided)
Wegmans will close at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving and reopen at 7 a.m. on Black Friday. (Provided)

This schedule, said Jo Natale, Wegmans vice president for media relations, “allows our employees to be home with their families for Thanksgiving dinner.” The stores are gearing up for the kind of shopping many customers do that day, Natale said.

“Customers are looking to come in, to pick up their last-minute items on their list or things they might have forgotten,” she said. “They are looking to get in and out as quickly as possible and we try to accommodate it.”  Customers can expect side dishes ready to accompany their home-cooked turkeys, for instance, and lots and lots of pies ready to be scooped up.

The shoppers who like to mount a sophisticated attack on Black Friday, on the other hand, will find plenty of ways to accommodate their planning. Some flyers for the special Black Friday bargains are already available on the internet, while there are plenty of promises for more announcements to come closer to the day.

Retailers such as Macy’s, Best Buy and Target were offering their specials online even before they open for in-person shopping Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Managers of local malls this week were still gathering information on which of their tenants expected to be open on Thanksgiving Day. Mike Kauffman, general manager of Eastview Mall, said he had heard from about 20 stores and no restaurants so far that plan to be open for part of Thanksgiving.

“We don’t encourage it, but we certainly accommodate those tenants that choose to do so,” he said. Santa Claus will arrive at the Victor mall the weekend before Thanksgiving and be available on Black Friday, when the mall opens for business at 6 a.m.

On that notorious bargain hunting day, “sheriff’s deputies will assist with traffic control to help us keep things flowing smoothly inside and out,” Kauffman said.

Tradition has it that Black Friday is such a financial success for retailers that profits (written in black ink on ledgers) take the place of debts (written in red.)

“It’s a great symbolic opening day for the shopping season,” Kauffman said. But the season really lasts two full months and not just the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, he said. “November 1 is when it really starts to take off,” and with so many people giving gift cards as Christmas presents, “shopping season really runs through Dec. 31,” he said.

REI’s Copeland said the boost in sales lasts even longer for her store, as customers return, gift card in hand, well into January to purchase skis, snow shoes, snowboards and their other supplies for winter sports.

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