Milford Mall Evolves With Changing Climate

By Joseph Weathered

The Connecticut Post Mall has announced the opening of Dallas-based dining and entertainment restaurant Dave & Buster’s in Spring of 2018. The 35,000 sq. ft. restaurant, arcade and bar is one of the many changing shifts in what the mall considers to be an evolution in how people view and experience shopping centers.

“What is really cool is that Centennial sees this vision and they see malls as an opportunity to still be a community center and it’s just evolving,” said Mall Marketing Director Kelly Frantz.

Referred to as a “dining and entertainment destination,” Dave & Busters will feature a chef crafted menu, specialty cocktails, arcade games and several massive screens to provide what the company calls “better than the stadium” sports viewing. The restaurant and entertainment complex will occupy the block of stores starting at Buy Buy Baby and ending at Finish Line. In an interview with Mall Marketing Director Kelly Frantz, Buy Buy Baby will close and open a new location in West Hartford. Gymboree will also close, marking one of the 300 locations closing nationwide. Hot Topic has begun construction to move to another location in the mall, and Finish Line will move to a location downstairs. A decision has yet to be made regarding the future of the Dental Center.

The decision to add Dave & Busters can be viewed as one in a variety of changes in the overall landscape of the mall. Since the purchase of the mall by Dallas based Centennial Real Estate in 2015, a shift towards entertainment, dining, movies and more diverse additions such as gym chain LA Fitness that opened. According to Frantz, the real estate acquisitions are a part of the continuing efforts for the mall to evolve.

“What is really cool is that Centennial sees this vision and they see malls as an opportunity to still be a community center and it’s just evolving,” commented Frantz.” There are malls that are going to close across the country and that are closing, whether it’s the real estate that they have or the location but we feel very strongly that if you continue to change and provide value to the community, you’ll stay relevant and you just have to evolve and transform along with how society is transforming.”

The plight of shopping malls has become a nationwide occurrence, as e-commerce and online shopping has led many of the typical mall consumer to order online. As a result of this, many national retail chain stores have closed numerous locations, most notably for the mall the recent closing of long time resident JC Penney. When asked about the closing of the long standing Milford location, Frantz commented that the store “was actually a well producing location.” “The problem was that their lease was up and they as a company were not renewing a lot of leases because of the financial situation of the entire company so it didn’t necessarily have to do with this location it was just that the lease was up.”

When asked about what Centennial’s current plans for the location are, Frantz said that while the future of the location is still under development, she hopes that an announcement can be made within three months and that “It would be something that would be very exciting to the community and we think would serve the community really well. We are looking at another department like store for that area, so it would fill up the entire box.”

Among other notable changes in the mall, Frantz confirmed that regardless of multiple closings around the country, the Sears location in the mall was not effected and commented on the success of the store and auto center. As to the recently closed restaurant and bar World of Beer, Frantz remarked that the Milford location had “perhaps outstretched themselves in certain regions” and competition with neighbor Bar Louie.

In other news, mall General Manager Dan Kiley has resigned from his position in the company. When asked to comment on the resignation, Mr. Kiley declined comment.

While construction will begin on Dave & Busters in September, the future of the mall, according to Frantz and Centennial is to “try and find a need for everybody.” Frantz commented that “we are excited with this change we are happy to find new options and bring in new retailers to the community and we are evolving like everyone else is.”