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Springfield City Council approves special permit to redevelop the Eastfield Mall

This rendering presented at the special permit hearing by the Springfield City Council on April 24, 2023 depicts the totally redeveloped Eastfield Mall property as an open air shopping center.
Onyx Partners, LLC
This rendering presented at the special permit hearing by the Springfield City Council on April 24, 2023 depicts the totally redeveloped Eastfield Mall property as an open air shopping center.

The large enclosed mall will be demolished and replaced with a smaller open air shopping center

Plans to completely redevelop one of the first enclosed shopping malls in the region have been approved.

The Springfield City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve a special permit to demolish the Eastfield Mall and to build in its place a much smaller open-air shopping center that the developers have named “Springfield Crossing.”

City Council President Jesse Lederman said the redevelopment of the Eastfield Mall into a more modern retail setting is essential to the long-term economic vitality of Springfield.

“By opening the whole thing up, bringing new businesses, restaurants, and opportunities for jobs and retail experience it is going to be a positive for the city of Springfield,” he said.

Speaking at a hearing on the special permit request, Anton Melchionda, the head of Onyx Partners, the new owners of the mall, said the project will cost $65 million-$80 million, create hundreds of new full- and part-time jobs, and increase the real estate tax on the property by $1.7 million.

“It’s a huge investment for us, as you can imagine,” he said. “We think it is very meaningful for the community.”

Plans presented at the Council meeting show 17 separate buildings of various sizes on the site of the current mall on Boston Road. The new development at 361,000 square-feet would be two-thirds the size of the existing mall. There would be more open space and landscaping in the parking lots, which is something that does not exist today.

The new buildings would contain a mix of retailers, about a half-dozen casual dining restaurants, and office space, according to the developers. They told Councilors it was premature to announce the names of the tenants. There is also a gas station depicted on the property.

Endorsing the project at the hearing were Dinesh Patel, one of the owners of the Tower Square complex in downtown Springfield, Chris Devoy, founder of the Hot Table restaurant chain, and former Springfield Mayor and retired state judge Mary Hurley, who as an attorney represented for many years the former Eastfield Mall owners.

“Eastfield Mall is a dinosaur,” Hurley said.

No one spoke in opposition to the special permit request.

Councilors lavished praise on the developers and their plans with Councilor Trayce Whitfield calling it “a great project.”

There was concern voiced by several Councilors about the fates of the existing mall tenants, many of which are mom-and-pop retailers. Lederman said the city needs to provide them with technical and financial assistance to relocate.

“We need to make sure we do right by the folks who are also investing through small business development,” Lederman said. “We have the resources to do that. It is about ensuring the administration brings those resources forward.”

The Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts has been enlisted to help the existing mall tenants relocate. Onyx has agreed to waive rent and utility charges as a way to help the small businesses cover moving expenses.

Of the 43 businesses remaining in the mall, five have found new sites and 30 are actively searching, according to an EDC official.

Demolition of the mall is expected to begin in July.

The Eastfield Mall opened in 1967 – more than a decade before the Holyoke Mall and Hampshire Mall. It thrived until the beginning of this century when shopping habits changed and enclosed malls fell out of favor.

As anchor retailers including JC Penney, Macy’s, and Sears closed in the last decade, plans were floated to redevelop the property into housing and even cannabis cultivation, but those all fell through.

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.