282 Berlin Mall Road
Berlin, VT 05602
Finally, the Berlin Mall in Berlin, VT represented an entirely different sort of challenge for the New Jersey-based developers. The Berlin Mall boasts thriving anchors in Walmart (one of only five in Vermont), Kohl’s which opened in March 2016, and the more recently added junior anchor Planet Fitness in December 2017. Despite strong performing anchors however, the Mall’s inline tenants have experienced mixed results. We were convinced that in order to survive long term in this challenging environment, a new approach was required. Taking advantage of the property’s size (over 65 acres), proximity to major highways such as Routes 89 and 62 and major employers such as the Central Vermont Medical Center, Heidenberg Properties Group entered into a unique partnership with Dousevicz, Inc. to develop 98 units of Independent, Assisted Living and Memory Care units on one of the Mall’s outlots. By adding a residential component located on land adjacent to the existing mall buildings, we will be taking its first step towards creating a vibrant town center, where people of all ages live, work and play.
While the partnership was memorialized prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the partners received their official Act 250 Permit just weeks before the pandemic hit. While adjusting to the “new normal”, Dousevicz, Inc., obtained its Vermont construction permit for Chestnut Place (the official name of the development) in May and commenced construction in June. Additionally, the Town of Berlin is pursuing a “New Town Center” designation for the mall property, as well as other adjacent lands, with the hopes of creating a walkable, pedestrian-friendly center that may include other housing, office and community uses.
Heidenberg Properties attributes its success in the pandemic to the active engagement of its tenants, service providers and lenders. The developer understood that each of these components were uniquely affected by the various stay-at-home orders and other government restrictions and were determined to find mutually agreeable, if not ideal solutions. The upside was that this dislocation of “normal” created opportunities and Heidenberg Properties was determined to take advantage of them. In addition to redeveloping Hershey Square and creatively adding uses to the Berlin Mall, Heidenberg Properties is in the process of negotiating new leases to spur development across its portfolio. According to Chief Operating Officer Jason Lazar, “The coronavirus pandemic has brought uncertainty, stress and disruption to virtually every walk of life. It was critical for us to rally as a team, engage all of our stakeholders and work tirelessly to manage through it- together. However, we are in the business of adding value and that means both taking advantage of and creating opportunities to make our portfolio stronger. At Hershey Square, Thompson Square, the Berlin Mall and other properties in the portfolio, there have been isolated victims, but those situations have allowed us to fine-tune our tenant-roster, add the type of retailers and non-retail users who have successfully evolved, and strengthen us for the years to come.”