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Plans advance to redevelop Eastfield Mall

The Eastfield Mall sign
Paul Tuthill
The Eastfield Mall in Springfield, MA opened in the 1960s as the region's first enclosed shopping center.

Mall to be razed, replaced by shopping center

Plans are advancing to redevelop one of the region’s first shopping malls.

The new owners of the Eastfield Mall are scheduled to lay out their redevelopment plans to the Springfield Planning Board at a meeting Wednesday evening in City Hall as they pursue a zoning change for the roughly 46-acre property.

Next Monday, the City Council is expected to hold a hearing on a special permit for the project.

Onyx Partners Limited of Needham, Massachusetts plans to demolish the mall and replace it with an open-air shopping center that is to be named “Springfield Crossing.”

In the last decade after anchor stores including Macy’s and Sears left the mall, several redevelopment plans were floated including housing and cannabis cultivation but none materialized. Mayor Domenic Sarno, who said he’s had numerous meetings with the new owners, is optimistic.

“This one seems to have legs,” Sarno said. “This new ownership has a good track record. They’ve done similar things across the country.”

The mall, which was built in the 1960s as one of the area’s first enclosed shopping centers, is expected to close in July.

Onyx is not going to charge rent or utility expenses to the remaining mall tenants to help them save money for relocation expenses, said Sarno.

“That’s a half-million dollars of relief,” Sarno said.

About 40 retailers remain in the mall. Most are local business owners. Some have storefronts inside the mall. Others operate from kiosks or pushcarts.

“They put their blood, sweat, and tears into it, lets see what happens,” Sarno said of the remaining mall tenants.

Sarno said the city’s Office of Planning and Economic Development and the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts are helping the businesses that want to relocate.

People who live near the mall have been concerned about its fate for years said Ward 8 Springfield City Councilor Zaida Govan.

“Hopefully, we’re going to get more traffic out there and have it be like a mall again,” Govan said.

There is a lot of curiosity, Govan said, about which national retailers might have stores in the new shopping center.

“Hopefully now we’ll be able to see some drawings and some names of who’s coming out there,” she said.

The redevelopment plans do not include the former Sears store and former Sears Auto Center which are owned separately. It is not clear what is to become of those buildings.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.