Power back on at Berkshire Mall as questions still linger about partial outage's cause

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PITTSFIELD — Power has been restored to the Berkshire Mall following a daylong partial outage that began Tuesday, but the reason for the interruption remains unclear.

By 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, many of the hallway and overhead lights were back on in the 720,000-square-foot shopping complex.

The mall was closed Wednesday due to a storm that dropped more than 6 inches of snow on much of the region, but it will re-open Thursday, according to owner Mike Kohan, the principal of Berkshire Mall Realty Holding LLC.

For the second day in a row, Kohan, on Wednesday, told The Eagle he didn't know what caused the outage. And he again shot down questions about whether it was due to a failure to pay electric costs.

"If there was a payment issue, why would only nine stores be affected?" he said. "We made our payments."

The Eagle counted at least 11 stores without power Tuesday afternoon: American Eagle, Victoria's Secret, Claire's, MasterCuts, GNC, Shoe Dept., Cyber Station, Palace Hair Design, Peace Train Tees, Spencer Gifts and Fan Zone. The reason for the disparity in the number of stores affected was not clear.

Three of the largest tenants — Regal Cinemas, Sears and Target — were unaffected. They were open Wednesday, along with Solomon's Furniture.

Each tenant pays its own electric bill, Kohan said, and the mall pays for electricity in common areas like the hallways.

Kohan said the mall belongs to the community, and people depend on it for their livelihood, he said.

"It's a serious thing," he said.

Priscilla Ress, a spokeswoman for Eversource, declined to provide a reason for the outage, but she told The Eagle that the utility had experienced no problems with its infrastructure.

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The power went out shortly after 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, according to the mall's general manager, Jim Ruiz, who told the Eagle that about half of the shopping complex was affected; Kohan said it was "about one quarter."

Mark Siegars, an attorney who represents the Baker Hill Road District, also did not know why the outage occurred.

The Baker Hill Road District was created by state legislation to build and maintain the road that leads to the mall from Routes 7 and 8 as a public way.

The district has expressed interest in buying the mall and has asked the state to amend its bylaws to allow it to own real estate.

A stream of tenants has left the mall since Kohan purchased the struggling 30-year-old shopping center for $3.5 million in September 2016.

Berkshire Mall Realty Holding LLC is a subsidiary of Kohan Retail Investment Group of Great Neck, N.Y., which owns 23 shopping centers in several states.

The group has previously had utility issues at another property.

In 2015, National Grid shut down the power to the Rotterdam Square Mall in Schenectady, N.Y., because the company failed to pay its electric bill.

Kohan, who had owned the property for about a year, told CNN Money that he had been disputing the bill because there was an electric meter in the mall that had not been reported to him and that National Grid came up with a "magic number."

The mall is not listed as one of the group's current holdings.

Business editor Tony Dobrowolski contributed to this report.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@berkshireeagle.com, at @BE_pleboeuf on Twitter and 413-496-6247.


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