A COUP FOR THE COUNTY

Former shopping center’s re-birth predicted to be welcome—and bustling—addition to Rockland

BY KATHY KAHN
Special to the Rockland Times

Rendering depicts what shoppers will find once Shops at Nanuet opens for business
Rendering depicts what shoppers will find once Shops at Nanuet opens for business

Fashion, food, fun, fitness, all in one location–who could ask for anything more? Certainly not the town of Clarkstown, which is host municipality to the forthcoming Shops at Nanuet on Route 59, where locals fondly remember the salad days of the former mall that slowly fell to the wayside once the Palisades Center opened its doors.

The Nanuet Mall was the jewel in Rockland’s shopping crown for many years until displaced by the Palisades Center in West Nyack in 1998. It fought the good fight, but was no match for the 130 acre, 350-plus store/food/cinema behemoth—complete with giant ferris wheel (and a recently-added four story rope climbing attraction) — just four miles from its front door.

Layout shows store locations and overall layout of site plan
Layout shows store locations and overall layout of site plan

Simon Property Group, accurately dubbed the world’s largest retailer, as well as one of the most close-mouthed when it comes to how much the new shopping center is costing them, acquired the parcel before the Great Recession sent the economy into a nosedive. The down time gave Simon time to iron out plans for the future of the property, which has, overall, received a favorable response from the public.

“We had a lot of time to think about what we wanted to do,” Thomas Schneider, Simon’s executive vice president of development, said of the Route 59 parcel during a hard-hat media tour on May 7. Their final design looks like a crowd-pleaser for shoppers who traditionally flock to malls once they are outside the confines of close-knit urban areas.

What can Rockland expect to find once it opens?

The Shops at Nanuet will include a multiplex Regal Cinema, a 45,000 square foot fitness center, complete with indoor pool leased to 24-Hour Fitness (and will no doubt be available 24/7!) and home to approximately several upscale retailers among them Coach, Banana Republic, Michael Kors and Brighton Collectibles, as well as several popular food and drink purveyors—from PF Chang’s to Bonefish Grill. A free-standing restaurant, Banchetto Feast, which opened in autumn, 2012, is also part of the palate-pleasing lineup.

Shops at Nanuet will be home to the county’s first Fairway Market, a coup for the county and for its shoppers that have been willing to travel miles out of their way to shop its aisles.

Work moves briskly in time for October opening
Work moves briskly in time for October opening

“We don’t consider ourselves a traditional grocery. In fact, we do not even attach the word to our company name,” said Aaron Fleishaker, senior vice president of real estate and construction. Fairway expects to hire between 300-400 union workers at the 65,000 square foot market and believes in building leadership within.

“We also believe in getting involved in the community,” added Fleishaker, saying its Red Hook Brooklyn Fairway store, devastated during Superstorm Sandy, has been helping rebuild neighboring stores in the area. That kind of community largesse is welcome news for Little Leaguers and others who rely on the good will –and charitable giving – of commercial property owners.

Macy’s and Sears, fixtures at the former Nanuet Mall, are the only stores that remain on site, since both own their stores and pad sites and were not required to vacate when Simon acquired the property. Both are getting a facelift to complement the new décor the Shops at Nanuet will bring to Route 59.

With nearly all of its 50 stores leased out—the average lease running 10 years — Schneider said new tenants’ names will be made public only when the tenant itself is ready to announce its impending arrival.

Rockland Industrial Agency Executive Director Steve Porath chats with Thomas Schneider, executive vice president for development for Simon Property Group
Rockland Industrial Agency Executive Director Steve Porath chats with Thomas Schneider, executive vice president for development for Simon Property Group

Is the Shops at Nanuet, like Simon’s other property open-air shopping center in the region– Woodbury Common in Central Valley– the shape of things to come when it comes to malls?

“Certainly not,” said Schneider. “Indoor malls and open air malls both offer different experiences and both will remain popular….we chose an open-air mall for the Nanuet site because it was a good fit for the area. Each offers something for the shopper.” Hence, choice is the buzz word when it comes to Palisades Center, owned by Pyramid Companies, and The Shops at Nanuet, owned by Simon Property Group. No doubt both sides hope to prosper despite the presence of “competition.”

Town’s planning and permitting streamlined process considered a model for others to follow

Schneider praised Clarkstown’s commitment to streamlining the process and working closely with the retail giant from the start. Once the design concept was nailed down and retailing started looking up, it took Simon less than nine months to get the project approved and ground broken.

Others have also commented on Clarkstown’s streamlining of the approvals process as a model for other municipalities to follow. All of the town’s individual departments—from planning to permits to wetland mitigation or a rare flock of bats that might have made a home in a property’s woods–work in tandem with each other and with the developer to streamline the process and mitigate problems, ending the ring-around-the-rosy approach to getting anything done, said Allen Smith, Simon’s regional director of operations.

For residents of Clarkstown and for Rockland County, the commercial rateables generated by the Shops at Nanuet will somewhat ease the county’s current financial crisis and near junk-bond status. For Clarkstown, with its Triple-A bond rating, it’s a feather in the cap of Clarkstown.

Steve Porath, executive director for the Rockland County Industrial Development Agency, said Simon received an exemption on construction material sales tax and its mortgage recording tax exemption from Rockland– the only “perks” the town of Clarkstown extended to Simon.

Some early opponents feared a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program would be offered, thereby cutting out needed income to the municipality, county and school district.” No,” said Porath, “they are getting a break that is reasonable, but this will be an immediate income generator for the Town of Clarkstown and for Rockland itself.”

When does the fanfare begin?

Scheduled to officially open on October 10, 2013, local residents Bill and Winnie Gunsalus of Stony Point are looking forward to Nanuet’s new open-air mall. “We weren’t sure what was going on here,” said the couple, who regularly shop at Sears. “It’s certainly good news for us, because we loved shopping the Nanuet Mall, and we’re looking forward to what’s coming next.”