Owner in talks with remaining Berkshire Mall tenants about its future


LANESBOROUGH — The handful of tenants clinging to commercial life at the Berkshire Mall will get a say about whether the beleaguered shopping center will reopen.

People arriving at the main entrance near the freestanding Target store found small printed signs taped up Tuesday saying the mall was closed, but offering no explanation. A metal gate blocked access to the food court area, limiting visitors to the Regal Cinemas lobby. The signs instructed people not to cross the barricade without permission from the mall security staff.

Mike Kohan, principal of Kohan Retail Investment Group, said that with so few shops remaining, following steady departures, including Foot Locker this past month, he is in talks with tenants about the future of the place.

"We're trying to figure it out," Kohan said Tuesday from his corporate office on Long Island, when asked whether the mall's closing is temporary or permanent.

Kohan did not provide a date for a possible return to business, citing the cost of providing utilities like electricity to parts of the 720,000-square-foot mall, which he put at tens of thousands of dollars, and the limited number of parties who still pay rent.

"There are only three or four tenants left," said Kohan, whose legal name is Mehran Kohansieh. "We're talking to them."

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Meantime, Kohan is a year late on paying taxes both to the town of Lanesborough and to a separate local entity, the Baker Hill Road District.

Both are moving independently to use state laws that would allow them to take the property from Berkshire Mall Realty Holding LLC for failure to pay taxes.

Kohan faces a June 12 deadline to pay $507,787.36 in taxes to the Baker Hill Road District going back through the current fiscal year, which began July 1.

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The mall owner also is in arrears to the town of Lanesborough itself.

Town Collector Jodi Hollingsworth provided copies of bills showing that the mall has not paid $392,531.35 in taxes for the current year. The town said it planned to provide a "courtesy" notice to Kohan about the mall's tax debt, as it does with all property owners before beginning the process of "tax taking."

As of Tuesday, the town had not provided a required public notice of its intent to take land for nonpayment of taxes, though the step is believed to be imminent.

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Last year, Kohan waited until the last minute to pay taxes for the year from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, according to Hollingsworth.

Calls to the local telephone numbers of several remaining mall retailers went unanswered Tuesday, including to A Dollar and to Journeys, a shoe outlet, where a recorded message said, "The associates at this location are not able to answer your call at this time. Please try back at a later time."

On a recent visit, The Eagle counted four remaining retailers — Journeys, A Dollar, Lee Nails Spa & Wax and Bath & Body Works.

The mall is also the current home of Truly Independent Wrestling, which hosts events, training for would-be wrestlers and birthday parties.

Retailer departures since 2015 include Best Buy, Eastern Mountain Sports, GNC, Hannoush Jewelers, J.C. Penney, Kay Jewelers, Macy's, MasterCuts, Payless Shoe Source, Sears, The Children's Place and Victoria's Secret.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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