The Mall at Wellington Green is luring new retailers and brand names as it prepares to invest millions of dollars in the property.
That was the message from mall General Manager Asad Sadiq to the Wellington council in an update during Monday’s agenda review workshop.
“We have been leasing the center proactively, and I wanted to highlight a couple of things that have come in,” he told the council.
The update came two days after fireworks were set off in the men’s bathroom near the mall’s food court on Saturday evening. Shoppers and employees who mistook the sounds for gunshots scrambled for exits and cover.
According to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, a 15-year-old from Wellington was arrested. One person was injured in a fall and taken to a hospital, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said.
What’s new at the mall?
A Korean barbecue restaurant, Breakers Korean Grill and Barbecue, is set to open later this year in the former Ruby Tuesday’s spot, on the upper level near Dillard’s, at the mall entrance between Dillard’s and JCPenney, Sadiq said. That space has been vacant for about eight years, he said.
Breakers’ owner is a restaurateur based in Atlanta with locations in other states including California, Texas, Virginia and Georgia, he said. The Wellington restaurant will span about 5,000 square feet.
Arcade Time will take over the former Ford’s Garage restaurant and an adjoining restaurant space next to the mall’s food court, Sadiq said.
The arcade will move from its smaller space upstairs to the first level, where there will be a full kitchen and bar as well as games in 13,000 square feet, he said.
The space upstairs was a temporary lease of 13 months to try the concept at Wellington Green, Sadiq said. It has proved so successful that owner is moving forward with a larger location.
Fried chicken chain Popeye’s will open its first Wellington restaurant in the mall later this year, Sadiq said.
Lifetime Kitchen will expand from its second-floor location to a new 5,500-square-foot storefront, he said.
Other new stores highlighted by the mall in a recent news release:
- Cutie: Pop culture and anime collectibles and accessories.
- Envy: A boutique selling men’s and women’s designer clothing and accessories.
- Leader Learning Center: Life skills training for children and young adults.
- MYM Colombian: Denim styles for women.
- Pera: Home goods and gifts.
Big names that recently renewed leases include Apple, Tommy Bahama and Chico’s, Sadiq said.
What’s happening with Nordstrom?
In short: It’s unclear.
Councilman Michael Drahos asked about the former department store’s future as part of a question about the possibility of adding indoor pickleball to the mall’s lineup.
Because Spinoso Real Estate Group, which is managing the mall during the receivership process, does not own the former Nordstrom space, it does not manage leasing for it, Sadiq said. Starwood Investments, which bought the mall in 2014, owns that space.
Millions set to be spent
Wells Fargo owns what is known as the core mall. According to property records, the major anchors – Dillard’s, JCPenney and Macy’s – each own their own stores and the adjoining parking lot space. Starwood still owns the former Nordstrom, and the anchor spot that includes City Furniture, Ashley Furniture and CMX Cinemas.
That makes for some complicated coordination for updates on the property.
“The mall is in receivership, but it looks like Wells (Fargo) is ready to spend some money,” he said.
That starts with a project this year to spend $2 million and replace seven rooftop units, he said. That kicks off a five-year plan to spend $1.5 million per year and replace more units each year, he said.
Strategy going forward
In previous years, mall managers have placed an emphasis on leasing space to companies that can provide experiences beyond the traditional shopping center.
Drahos asked Sadiq if that’s still the case.
“Are you still sticking with that strategy, or are you going back to selling retail spots because some of the retail is coming in?” Drahos asked.
He and Councilman John McGovern said they were surprised by the recent addition of Wellington Mart, a convenience store, on the lower level.
Sadiq said he viewed the convenience store as a good addition to the mall, and that he views it as more of an amenity for the more than 600 employees who work at Wellington Green.
When it comes to the right mix for the mall, if it will be more experiential or more retail: “It’s going to have to be a combination of both, right? Because if I look at the arcade, that’s more of an experience than traditional retail or even restaurant,” Sadiq said.
Why does it matter?
In terms of property taxes, the mall site has one of the largest single property tax bills in Wellington. As its property value has dropped over the past six years, from a high of about $246 million in 2016 to $72 million last year, so has its property tax payment to the county and the village.
In 2017, the mall’s tax bill was just shy of $5.1 million, county records show. That includes all taxing authorities on the bill – Wellington, Palm Beach County, the school district and more.
Last year’s tax bill was almost $1.6 million to all taxing agencies, according to county records.
A higher property value means more money for Wellington and its services and programs. More and better tenants and an improved property increase the chances that the mall’s value will rise.
Already, it’s expected that the mall’s value will remain steady this year instead of once again falling by millions of dollars. In a presentation to Wellington’s council during the March 29 Directions Workshop, Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Dorothy Jacks said her office planned to hold the mall’s value steady. That number had yet to be certified and Jacks’ staff at the time would not comment.
It’s also worth noting that the mall sits at one of the busiest intersections in the county — Forest Hill Boulevard and State Road 7 — and is a prime location for potential redevelopment.
Wellington’s council members told Sadiq they want to support the mall however they can.
“As we’ve said to you and to the higher-ups in your company, we’re here to be a partner,” Councilman John McGovern said. “We’re here to see the mall survive and thrive in whatever iteration you all or the Wells (Fargo) folks can have it be.”
Sadiq thanked the council for their support, and encouraged people to share their experiences at the mall.
He noted that since taking the position at the mall, he and his family moved to the Wellington area.
“I’m vested just like you guys are, maybe even moreso in the property,” he said.
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