New court action ramps up pressure on Berkshire Mall owner

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LANESBOROUGH — The Berkshire Mall might have reopened, but the financial issues facing its owner continue to mount.

And if those issues aren't resolved by mid-May, the town could begin the process of seizing the mall.

The Baker Hill Road District, which has legal jurisdiction over the mall's seven parcels, has taken mall owner Mike Kohan and his local entity, Berkshire Mall Realty Holdings LLC, to court again.

The road district has filed a motion in Berkshire Superior Court seeking to attach $117,722 in unpaid tax revenue and interest to the mall's property that Kohan's company owes for tax bills that were mailed Jan. 1 and due Feb. 4, according to court documents.

A motion hearing has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday in Berkshire Superior Court.

In December, the court agreed to attach a debt of $276,000 to the mall's property. Berkshire Mall Realty Holdings has yet to pay any property taxes to either the road district or the town of Lanesborough for fiscal 2019, which began July 1.

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Attorney Mark Siegers, of Lanesborough, who filed the motion and represents the road district, did not return a telephone call or an email message seeking comment. In a telephone interview, Kohan said he intends to pay what he owes by the end of the current fiscal year — "absolutely," he said — but did not say when.

Lanesborough mailed tax bills for the fourth quarter of 2019 on Monday, town collector Jodi Hollingsworth said. The bills are due by May 1. If Kohan fails to pay what he owes by May 2, the town can initiate a notice demanding payment. If that debt is not paid in full within 14 days of the sending of that letter, the town can begin the process of taking the mall property from Kohan's firm by tax title.

Kohan, who purchased the Berkshire Mall in September 2016 for $3.5 million, has frequently been delinquent in paying tax bills to the town and the road district. He paid his fiscal 2017 and 2018 tax bills right up against the deadline. In 2018, Kohan told The Eagle he had to borrow the money to pay his outstanding tax debt.

The mall reopened March 29, after being closed for more than a week due to a power outage that also affected the water supply. Only six stores and one kiosk were open Wednesday when a reporter visited the mall about midday.

The 720,000-square-foot mall, which marked its 30th anniversary in September, has struggled financially for many years. It has had three owners since 2014, and lost all four of its anchor tenants. Most of the smaller national retail chains and some local merchants have left, too.

The loss of tenant income has been compounded by the retail complex's assessed value of $19.5 million, which is more than five times what Kohan paid for the mall, and has kept the property tax rate high.

Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.


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