Remember when the highlight of your weekend was hitting the food court together with your friends at the mall? The number of malls in the U.S. grew more than twice as fast as the population between 1970 and 2015 but boy, have times changed. The crowds have faded, countless storefronts have shuttered, and now, malls across New York and much of the country are looking a lot less lively. The opening of the 5.6 million square foot Mall of America in 1992 might have looked like the continuation of an American staple, but in reality, right after that goliath opened, Amazon was born, and the Internet exploded. It was the beginning of the end of the mall era. In the US alone, we’re expecting to have 300 million online shoppers by 2023. Pre-pandemic statistics from 2020 indicate that 69% of Americans have shopped online, and 25% of Americans shop online at least once per month. With the reliance on digital shopping only exploding across demographics during the economic shutdown, there’s no doubt those numbers are growing. So what to do with all of the sprawling, commercial space our communities face? The town of Newburgh Planning Board has approved plans to repurpose the Newburgh Mall and it’s promising to bring hundreds of local jobs, and millions in local revenue.
As we’ve established, the coronavirus pandemic accelerated a demise that was already underway. Coresight Research estimates 25% of America’s roughly 1,000 malls will close over the next three to five years. Just last month, the town of Newburgh Planning Board approved plans to create Resorts World Hudson Valley inside the Newburgh Mall. The casino will feature 1,300 electronic games, a bar and lounge, and is expected to draw several new businesses to the mall that currently has 17 vacant storefronts. According to Meghan Taylor, Resorts World vice president for government affairs, the $32 million project will employ union labor. “This project would be creating 200 to 225 full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $74,000 a year including salary and benefits, the large majority of that being union employees from the Hotel Trade Council Union,” she said. “That would mean a total of almost $15.5 million in annual wages here in the Town of Newburgh.” The construction phase of the project will employ approximately 200 local union workers. Taylor said Resorts World, which also operates the $1 billion casino resort that opened near Monticello in 2018, would pay out $3 million annually as host fees to the Town of Newburgh and Orange County. The company has said construction could take six to 12 months, depending on whether pandemic-related shortages of building materials cause further delays. Last month, company representatives said they planned to start work at some point this summer and open the casino in the first three months of 2022. “We look forward to breaking ground soon and delivering on our commitment to create good-paying union jobs for local residents, help revitalize the Newburgh Mall, serve as an economic engine in the Hudson Valley, and begin generating revenue for New York State’s public schools,” Taylor said. Resorts World has projected the slot-like devices at its Newburgh casino will generate $160 million in gross gaming revenue, part of which goes to the state to spend on education. According to New York State Sen. James Skoufis who negotiated the deal to bring the gaming center to Orange County, this new addition to the community is a game-changer. “The mall has been around for many decades and it’s been on a steep decline for a while now and this changes the entire trajectory of that property,” he said of the project.
Ultimately, the redevelopment of properties within Hudson Valley could range from straightforward to complex, with an assortment of public-partnership arrangements or purely private redevelopment. Hopefully, the completion of this particular project will prompt more local economic redevelopment and additional workforce opportunities for local contractors. As with any project, working with local government and neighborhood residents throughout each phase of a project to meet zoning regulations and address neighborhood concerns would be essential to the success of future property conversion. Beyond the variety of services we perform for our clients at RBT, we aim to pass along useful, relevant information to help our communities succeed, grow and prosper. As we continue to dedicate time and resources to helping our construction clients achieve success, we look forward to connecting with you and your team.