Berkshire Mall to be sold to NY developer with eye on revival


LANESBOROUGH — The Berkshire Mall, the county's largest retail shopping complex, is being sold to a New York developer who specializes in purchasing and trying to revitalize distressed shopping centers.

Kohan Retail Investment Group of Great Neck, N.Y. will purchase the mall for $3.5 million from the shopping center's current owners, a Texas-based real estate holding company, according to the firm's principal, Mehran Kohanseih, who goes by the name Mike Kohan. The sale is expected to be completed on Friday.

"I usually deal with malls that are in a distressed situation," Kohan said. "I bring in more tenants and try and revitalize them. I think that mall has served the community well."

The current owners, COMM 2005-FL10 Berkshire Mall LLC, took over the mall in 2014 after the shopping complex's original owner, Pyramid Cos. of Syracuse, N.Y., failed to keep up with the payments on the property's $36.9 million mortgage. Pyramid opened the 720,000-square-foot shopping complex in 1988.

The mall was struggling before the new ownership group took over, and those struggles have continued. Anchor stores Best Buy and Macy's have both left the mall over the last 12 months.

A mall employee said a small store located near the Regal Cinemas also closed on Thursday.

The Berkshire Mall's current ownership group uses third party contractors to both run the shopping complex, and provide security and maintenance.

On Thursday, Kohan said his company does not hire third party contractors, and that employees of those firms currently working at The Berkshire Mall will be offered positions with Kohan Retail Investment Group.

Berkshire Mall General Manager Joseph Scelsi declined to comment on the sale Thursday except to say that he is still an employee of CBL & Associates Properties of Chattanooga, Tenn., which manages the mall for the current ownership group. The property is held by Strategic Asset Services of California.

Kohan Retail Investment Group currently owns 16 shopping complexes in several states. According to previously published reports in several media outlets, Kohan company's has mixed record in revitalizing the malls it has purchased.

Some of his properties failed after he took them over, according to published reports.

Employees of several mall stores said Thursday that they had heard the mall had been sold, but that no formal announcement was made.

"Excited but kind of nervous," was Mateo Suliveres' reaction to the news. Suliveres works at "Not Just Pretzels," a small food kiosk.

"I don't know what's going to happen," he said.

"I'm really excited," said Lindsey Wick, who has worked at Bath & Body Works for four years. "I'm hoping we see some change."

Shoppers were surprised by the news — "Wow!" said Kelly Gorman of North Adams. Another shopper, who declined to give his name, said he hoped new ownership would revitalize the complex.

"It can't get any worse," he said.

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413 496-6224.


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