Berkshire Mall closed due to issue with electric meter, owner claims
LANESBOROUGH — After nearly a week in the dark, the Berkshire Mall should reopen Tuesday, the principal owner said Monday.
Michael Kohan of the Kohan Retail Investment Group cited issues with the electric company that supplies power to the mall, Eversource, as the reason the county's largest shopping complex has been closed since Thursday.
"We have an issue with the electric meter," Kohan said in a phone interview with The Eagle. "Our bills are so high and we have so few stores."
The mall closed temporarily three times last year due to unexplained power outages. As in 2018, the latest closure doesn't affect Regal Cinemas and Target as the movie theater and department store own their space.
Eversource spokeswoman Priscilla Ress didn't comment on whether the mall owner is disputing his electric bill. Ress did note that "the utility has experienced no problems with its infrastructure serving the mall."
The 720,000-square-foot facility has struggled financially for years for a variety of reasons, including the changes that have affected in-store retail shopping since the advent of e-commerce. It has lost at least two stores this year — MasterCuts and Victoria's Secret.
All four of the mall's national anchor tenants have left since October 2015, along with several smaller chains, including GNC and The Children's Place last year. Nationally, many of these smaller chains, known as "in-line tenants," have closed with little or no warning.
Felicia Burdick, a manager at Regal Cinemas, longs for the days the mall was bustling with customers. The 11-year employee wishes the owner would do something with the mall. Despite the dark days, Burdick says Regal had a busy weekend, but wishes they were more visible to the public during the mall closings.
"It would be nice to have our own entrance with a sign. We're not going anywhere," she told an Eagle reporter.
The dwindling number of tenants has contributed to Kohan struggling to keep up with quarterly property tax payments to the town, barely making deadline each time to settle bills of several hundred thousand dollars. He is currently delinquent in taxes owed the Baker Hill Road District, which manages and polices the connector road servicing the retail center between U.S. Route 7 and state Route 8.
Berkshire Mall Realty Holding LLC, Kohan's local entity that owns the mall, is currently under a court order to pay the district $298,146.92 in back taxes, interest penalties and court costs accrued since Aug. 1, according to Berkshire Superior Court documents.
Superior Judge John Agostini issued the writ of execution March 13 ordering Kohan to pay up, a month after the court ruled in favor of the district's civil case. In December, Baker Hill attorney Mark Siegars filed a civil suit against the holding company seeking full payment.
Kohan says he's aware of the most recent court ruling and has made an offer to settle the tax debt in three payments.
"We definitely want to pay it," he said.
Kohan said he hasn't heard back from the district on the offer. Siegars declined comment on the offer and court case.
Kohan's financial difficulties stretch beyond the Berkshires as he has spent millions buying up other large retail properties.
According to The Globe Gazette in Mason City, Iowa, Kohan barely met the deadline to pay $150,000 in property taxes on a mall in the Midwest community. The newspaper also cited Kohan's other financial troubles at malls in Effingham, Ill., Warren, Pa., and in suburban Syracuse, N.Y.
Meanwhile in 2018 alone, Kohan spent $46 million to buy six more malls, according to the Iowa newspaper.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at email@example.com and 413-496-6233.
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