HANOVER — In the woodsy back corner of the 77-acre Hanover Mall, the new owners of the long-struggling shopping center see an opportunity to change its fortunes.
It’s not the movie theater that sits there now, or another big box store. No, it’s housing — four buildings with nearly 300 apartments that PREP Property Group, an Ohio-based company that bought the mall in 2016, wants to build.
If it wins town approval, PREP would sell the land to a housing developer and use the proceeds to blow up the half-century-old indoor mall and turn it into an outdoor-oriented “lifestyle center,” like many of its newer competitors, with hundreds of customers in those apartments, just steps away.
“When I heard about their plans, it was like a revelation,” said Ed Callahan, who has managed the Hanover Mall through years of foreclosure, bank ownership, and slumping sales. “We really lucked out with a new owner that saw this place as an opportunity.”
When a roomful of developers and business owners gather to talk about shopping malls, you’d expect them to discuss changing shopper habits, and the comparative attractions of enclosed and open malls.
And a group of 40 did Tuesday morning, Aug. 8 at the Doubletree Hilton hotel in Rockland during a South Shore Chamber of Commerce session on “The Future of Malls.” But they talked about other things even more – town zoning bylaws, malls as “destination places,” and the South Shore’s graying work force and shortage of affordable housing.
South Shore Chamber president and CEO Peter Forman, mall developers and a couple of town planners agreed that all those issues are big parts of any effort to keep the area’s overall economy healthy and growing – not just the malls.
“We may have a great market down here,” Forman said. “But if we’re 11th on the list of 10 (for development), we lose.”