Connecticut’s largest mall will live on, says owner
Following a Planning and Zoning Board vote that rejected Centennial’s plan to add luxury apartments to its Connecticut Post Mall in Milford, Conn., the fate of the state’s largest mall was in question. But there was no question about it in the mind of Centennial’s founder and CEO Steve Levin.
“Connecticut Post isn’t going away. It’s well located, it draws five million people a year, and we continue to invest in it,” he said.
Mall owners, all of whom are seeing J.C. Penney’s, Sears, and Macy’s anchors vanishing from their anchor spots, are engaged in efforts to re-make their tenant mixes with fitness centers office space, apartments, and even fulfillment centers. Centennial’s research uncovered a profound need for apartments in Milford—located between New Haven and Bridgeport along I-95—and put forth a plan to add a 300-apartment residential area at Connecticut Post. But Milford’s board voted 5-3 against it, saying it didn’t consider other tenant categories such as university extensions, corporate headquarters, and co-working spaces.
Levin counters that all those types of users remain possible tenants, but that residential is the class currently in demand in the area.
“The reality is that every good, vibrant mall has to be reinvented. To stay in business over the next 10 or 20 years, the malls themselves have to be re-merchandised,” said Levin, whose father owned a chain of 30 Margie’s stores, a value-fashion chain stationed in malls. “Right now, during COVID-19, there’s a great need for residential. People are leaving cities for the suburbs, but they want to retain that urban feel. They want to be in a place where they can walk to a Starbucks or a gym.”
Centennial is incorporating residential at two other malls in Orange County California and Chicagoland, both of which received municipal approvals. Levin is confident that Connecticut Post Mall will too.
“At the end of the day, I believe we and the city will find a path to make the preservation happen. It’s definitely our plan to make it happen,” Levin said.