EDC to assist relocating local businesses from the Eastfield Mall

| G. Michael Dobbs

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SPRINGFIELD — With the announcement that Onyx Partners of Needham plans to demolish the Eastfield Mall as part of its redevelopment plan, the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts (EDC) is planning to help the locally owned businesses in finding new locations.

According to a statement from the EDC it “intends to ensure a smooth process for all those involved, acting as a liaison between the new owners and the Eastfield Mall businesses. Stakeholder meetings are already in motion with current tenants, the City of Springfield, elected officials, community members, and supporting community partners, such as the Hope CDC and the Latino Economic Development Corporation who will be providing technical assistance to all small businesses throughout the transition.”

Xiomara Delobata, vice president and chief of staff of the EDC, explained to Reminder Publishing that the businesses are not necessarily being evicted at this moment as they have not yet received notice. The mall is still owned by Mountain Development Corporation, she noted.

She explained that the developers will be going to the City Council with permit requests and then once approved, will disclose dates of demolition, etc.

The goal of the EDC’s action is to insure as much transparency as possible about the process so any business owner will have the time to move.

“We wanted to make the tenants know as much as we know in advance,” she said.

Delobata said through a questionnaire of the businesses, the EDC has learned some of the businesses want to stay in Springfield while others would consider locations outside of the city.

“We are very considerate of the goods and services they provide. We want to make sure their successful,” she said. “We want to minimize as much distraction as we can.”

She explained the Latino Chamber of Commerce will be providing technical help with such issues as bookkeeping, inventory and marketing for the affected businesses.

The national chain businesses at the mall, such as Old Navy, are directly communicating with mall management, she noted, about the transition.

Mayor Domenic Sarno said in a written statement, “Chief Development Officer Tim Sheehan and I have met with the future developer. It is an exciting project that will reinvent and define a ‘mall/village’ concept too. It will bring significant retail activities and amenities to the Boston Road corridor. We look forward to announcing more details in the near future. It was also very important to me that I voiced to the ownership and management about a thoughtful outreach to current and existing businesses about relocation assistance aspects too.”

According to its website, Onyx Partners have developed shopping centers in 16 states. In Massachusetts the developments include those in Wakefield, Methuen, Tyngsboro, Billerica and Carver.

Delobata noted there is much nostalgia about the mall, which was the first such shopping center in Western Massachusetts opening in 1967. She said that what is happening now with the mall is “a moment of opportunity.”