The Bangor Mall is popping into an leisure vacation spot

A rising variety of folks will move via the doorways of the Bangor Mall within the coming weeks and months to get pleasure from theater, music, gaming and different leisure — points of interest which might be beginning to rival retail facilities on the mall.

Six years in the past, when the mall had a 98 p.c occupancy price, that might have appeared like a fairly loopy thought within the retail-dominated constructing. However in the present day, with 22 empty storefronts and nationwide retailers closing brick-and-mortar shops, the thought of a theater firm opening or a comic book conference taking place in a shopping center is way from loopy. It’s beginning to grow to be the norm.

Right this moment on the mall, Some Theatre Firm and Ten Bucks Theatre Firm each function areas. Sunshine’s Health Studio and Wellness Middle provides lessons and private coaching. Bangor Comedian & Toy Con, after internet hosting its conference on the mall earlier this month, will now provide year-round programming in two storefront places. Maineiac Manor, open throughout October and sporadically all year long, runs a haunted home within the former Hollister retailer, and native photographer Shane Grant opened a images and video studio. 

And by the top of the yr, G-Power Journey Middle will open an leisure and gaming heart with laser tag, an arcade, axe throwing, bounce homes, stay music and comedy, and a bar and restaurant, in 4 leased storefronts within the wing of the mall the place Sears as soon as was.

All these companies and organizations are regionally owned and operated, and provide companies and experiences which have available in particular person — not on-line. It’s a far cry from the mall’s growth time of the Nineteen Nineties and 2000s, when clothes, shoe and residential items shops dominated the mall, virtually all of which had been nationwide retailers like Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret and the Hole, all three of which closed in recent times.

“That is the route that the mall goes in — issues that folks can’t do on-line. Issues that get you out of the home and round different folks. That’s what some malls nationwide are turning into,” mentioned Brian Plavnick, proprietor of G-Power, which he moved from its former location on Wilson Road in Brewer to the mall earlier this yr. “If malls don’t redefine themselves, they’ll shut fully. It’s important to adapt.”

Brian Plavnick, pictured within the former Brewer location of G-Power Adventures, not lengthy earlier than he introduced he was shifting to the Bangor Mall. Credit score: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

Requests for remark from each native mall managers and its New York-based proprietor, Namdar Realty Group, weren’t returned by Friday afternoon. It’s clear, nonetheless, that administration has pivoted from courting nationwide chains to encouraging native companies to maneuver into the mall — with an emphasis on experiential companies providing in-person companies and leisure.

Will Hesketh, who along with his enterprise companion Jay Cochran runs Bangor Comedian & Toy Con, mentioned that the liberty mall administration gave him when it got here to planning the conference, which was held two weeks in the past on the mall, additional satisfied him to make the mall his group’s everlasting dwelling.

“I feel the mall has an actual likelihood to grow to be a enjoyable little native leisure heart,” Hesketh mentioned. “I feel with what all of us completely different companies are attempting to convey to the desk it at the least has a shot.”

The nationwide pattern of nationwide retailers closing brick-and-mortar outlets — a pattern hastened by the pandemic — has led to gutted malls throughout the nation. The Bangor Mall isn’t any exception, with greater than 20 shops closing prior to now 5 years. Upkeep on the power, each the precise constructing and the roads and parking tons, has fallen behind. In 2019, the mall was offered to Namdar and two different buyers for simply $12.6 million, about half its assessed tax worth on the time of $24.7 million. The assessed worth has fallen much more since then, to $15.5 million for the present tax yr.

However there have been some indicators of progress. Among the main complaints made by each tenants and mall-goers are beginning to be addressed — particularly, the state of mall-owned roads, which in recent times have grow to be studded with deep potholes and damaged pavement. A couple of sections of Bangor Mall Boulevard and a few parking areas have been repaved in current months, although mall administration declined to reply questions on whether or not paving would proceed via the remainder of the autumn.

The outside of Some Theatre Firm and Furnishings Mattress and Extra within the Bangor Mall. Credit score: Emily Burnham / BDN

The town of Bangor has tried to encourage nearly any form of non-retail growth in and across the mall, an effort that included new zoning guidelines to permit for gentle industrial makes use of like laboratories and warehouses. Bangor’s financial growth director, Tanya Emery, didn’t essentially count on a lot of the expansion within the mall to take the type of leisure and experiential companies, however she mentioned she’s thrilled to see it occur.

“The work we did was actually to attempt to open up the chances for the mall, and take away any restrictions that is likely to be there, in order many issues as doable could possibly be profitable there,” Emery mentioned. “What these companies would find yourself being, that was as much as the mall house owners and the entrepreneurs that wished to present it a shot.”

Emery mentioned it’s a singular reversal for the Bangor Mall, which beforehand was an costly place to lease a storefront.

“The costs have come down sufficient the place it’s doable {that a} native enterprise can open there, the place beforehand they may have thought, ‘Gee, I may by no means pay Victoria’s Secret lease,’” she mentioned. “What was Hollister is now a haunted home. May you’ve gotten imagined that even simply three years in the past?”

Elaine Bard, inventive director of Some Theatre Firm, mentioned that the regionally owned companies within the mall have developed a way of camaraderie, and have ended up recruiting different new native companies to the mall.

“We type of have our personal little household right here,” Bard mentioned. “All of us work collectively to assist convey the mall again to life. We’ve got one another’s backs. And we’re all consistently brainstorming about cool new issues we will do. We actually wish to see folks succeed.”

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