Will sale bring new life to South Burlington’s aging University Mall?
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Will new owners be able to breathe new life into the aging University Mall in South Burlington?
They made a $60 million investment, buying the building. More than 600,000-plus square feet of real estate is going to be revamped.
Shoppers say they are excited.
“Hopefully, new ownership will put some fire into it,” said George Commo of Burlington.
After several years in foreclosure, Taconic Capital Advisors and Eastern Real Estate partnered to purchase the mall. Eastern Real Estate also operates several mixed-use projects around the country.
South Burlington City Manager Jessie Baker says Eastern reached out to the community to see what they envision for the mall. She doesn’t believe they want to take down the existing structure, rather continue to operate the mall and possibly add other buildings to the site.
“How do we better use the land? How do we bring more vibrancy to our growing downtown and city center? How do we make it more of a 24/7 offering so people can come and shop, maybe live on the space, go to more restaurants on the space, maybe even work on the space,” Baker said.
The director of Taconic Capital Advisors said in a statement they’re excited to be part of the University Mall’s future, and “The property has been a gathering place for decades and our commitment is to build on its success as a vital retail and economic asset for Vermont.”
Jim’s Sports is a local store that’s called the University Mall home for six years. Owner Jim Vitanos says it seems more people are coming into the mall recently and he’s excited about the sale because the mall needs a change.
“I think it’s going to need to be something that’s like a one-stop entertainment thing, where maybe it’s a movie theater, a bowling alley or a skatepark that’s going to bring folks here, that’s just besides the retail,” Vitanos said.
Those walking around the mall are also excited by the possibilities.
“It’s convenient, so many stores together in one place. Not everybody wants to shop over the internet. A lot of us like to look at stuff and handle it before we buy it,” said Paul, a frequent shopper.
“I’d say it’s got to be a good sign. Lately, there’s too many vacancies in here... Losing Sears here was obviously a big thing, we shopped there quite a bit,” Commo said.
If Eastern pulls off a new mixed-use space, it would go along with a walking and biking bridge over Interstate 89 which South Burlington hopes to build.
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