Ailing Stores and the Eastfield Mall

Photo Credit to the Eastfield Mall

Nicholas Silva, Layout Editor

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Online shopping has been on the rise for years since its debut in the late nineties. Until recently, this did not have traumatic effects on brick-and-mortar stores, but that is rapidly changing. In the past decade, many stores have found their doors closing as traffic shifts to their online presence or to Amazon and eBay. Locally, the Eastfield Mall is on the forefront of this transition. In 2011, J.C. Penny, one of the mall’s flagship stores, announced plans to close. Since then, the space has been empty, and the facade crumbling, only having been seasonally occupied by Spirit Halloween -but even this has since moved on.

Macy’s also closed its Eastfield Mall location in subsequent years. Now, just this summer, Sears -the last major storefront of the ailing mall- declared bankruptcy and has since closed as well.

Sears was with the mall since its beginning over fifty years ago in 1967. Back then, the Eastfield Mall was actually a happening place. It had major retailers, and even when these stores closed, they could fill the gaps. Now, in the changing retail landscape, they cannot. When J.C. Penney closed, the mall management bought the former space. Macy’s closed, and sat vacant for quite a long time. Now, the space is filled with a cramped, dingy flea market.

At this point, there are very few last-ditch anchor stores left. There is Old Navy, 99 Restaurant, and Rave Cinemas. So now, as the property dips further into disarray and becomes more of an eyesore and less of a destination every year, new plans are being proposed for the location.

Many ideas have circulated in recent months and years, including replacing the mall with parking for MGM Springfield, but now it looks as though a solution has been identified. The Mountain Development Corporation, which owns most of the mall’s property, is considering bulldozing much of the existing Eastfield Mall and turning it into Eastfield Commons. The Commons would be a blend of shopping, entertainment, and residential areas, and would occupy the footprint of the mall, and fill in some of the rarely-used parking lots surrounding the building itself.

 

Photo Credit to MassLive
Concept plan for Eastfield Commons

Maroun Hannoush, owner of Hannoush Jewelers which has a flagship store in the Eastfield Mall, said that “Malls in general are talking about the experience that (malls) want to provide clients,” he said. He also addressed that more experiences -such as a the store’s glass faced jewelry workshop- increase traffic and interest in the brick-and-mortar stores. The Eastfield Commons are focusing on interaction.

The Commons would keep the existing Rave Cinemas -perhaps the mall’s biggest hit right now- and would scrap much of what is left. Mountain Development is currently in talks with Sears about purchasing their space in the mall, the Sears Auto Center, and the space in between. The corporation is expected to strike a deal, as Sears’ new plan is to shed property to at least slow their demise. The Commons would also feature about 270 residential units, a dining hall, self storage units, and more.

In all, the future of the Eastfield Mall is certainly up in the air, but it is looking increasingly bright. Modern malls are seeing the need for a more experienced-based approach to offer something that online stores can’t, and the proposed Eastfield Commons may be just what the property needs.