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What could replace the Mall at Wellington Green?

Commissioned by the Village of Wellington, the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council has come up with ideas for redevelopment of the Mall at Wellington Green.

Photo by Palms West Journal.

Green space. Homes. Promenades with shops and restaurants.

Those are among some of the ideas for redevelopment of the Mall at Wellington Green, as reported in a Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council study commissioned by Wellington.

The report comes as Wellington might not lose tax money on the Mall at Wellington Green for the first time in six years.

Instead, the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office will most likely hold the struggling mall’s value steady at $72 million, down from a recorded high of nearly $246 million in 2016, Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Dorothy Jacks told Wellington’s council at the village’s March 29 Directions Workshop.

If the property value remains the same, Wellington can expect to match last year’s tax collection from the mall of about $1.3 million.

A representative for Jacks’ office said after the workshop that there would be no comment on any specific property’s value for the coming year until the preliminary tax rolls are submitted to the state and delivered to municipalities in July.

Meanwhile, the possibility of redevelopment is looming, though when is up in the air.

Wellington Green’s history

The 1.3-million-square-foot Mall at Wellington Green, at 10300 Forest Hill Blvd. on the southwest corner of Forest Hill and State Road 7, opened Oct. 5, 2001, just in time for the holiday shopping season.

It was less than a month after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when residents were looking for even a hint of positivity.

Tens of thousands of patrons streamed through the mall’s doors on that first day, with the mall and surrounding properties serving as a regional beacon of development opportunity.

In 2014 the mall’s original owners, the Taubman Group, sold Wellington Green for $341 million to Starwood Capital Group. Within two years, the mall’s value peaked at almost $246 million, according to county records.

But a decline soon followed.

The struggles of major retail tenants, including anchors Burdines and Nordstrom, affected the entire mall. The departure of those two stores left gaps in the mall’s lineup.

Nordstrom remains vacant — Spirit Halloween has taken a seasonal lease on the space the past few years — while Starwood received approval from Wellington to adapt the former Burdines into its current use: Part is City Furniture and Ashley Home, while the other portion is the CMX Cinemas Wellington 10 theater.

In 2019, after Nordstrom’s closure, Starwood pitched an ambitious plan for part of the 97-acre property: Demolish the anchor space previously occupied by the high-end retailer, and use that space and the adjoining parking lot to create a mixed-use development with retail, restaurants, a hotel, outdoor entertainment space and 3.5-acre Crystal Lagoon.

Starwood dropped the plan just as reports emerged that the company was in default on a $700 million loan backed in part by the Mall at Wellington Green, as well as malls in Virginia, North Carolina and Michigan.

Happening now

The mall has since gone into receivership: Essentially, a trustee oversees an asset on behalf of a creditor. In this case, the asset is the Mall at Wellington Green. While the same Starwood-related entity owns the mall, a company that specializes in managing struggling malls, Spinoso Real Estate Group, now directs leasing, promotion and anything else Wellington Green-related.

Spinoso also took over management of the other three malls in the loan portfolio, selling the Michigan mall last year after reports show its performance improved.

Spinoso did not return requests for comment.

What’s next

In December 2019, as Starwood planned its redevelopment and the world was on the cusp of the COVID-19 shutdown, Wellington’s council commissioned a study from the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council of redevelopment options for the mall, focusing on what could be done if a developer razed the mall and started over.

That could be a tough sell, the report notes, because the mall has more than one owner. Macy’s owns its pad and parking lot. Nordstrom still owns its pad. Dillard’s owns its pad and parking lot. And the JCPenney pad and parking lot are owned by a trust established during that retailer’s Chapter 11 reorganization.

All of the owners would have to agree to sell or to participate in a redevelopment, the study says.

“If one or more of these anchor stores decides not to sell to a future development investor or resist redevelopment, the site concept plans will require substantial modifications,” the study says. “Without site control, it will be almost impossible to determine how to move forward with redevelopment.”

Four concepts

The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council developed four concepts “intended to test densities and intensities of potential future redevelopment as well as illustrate traditional design principles,” the study says. “The concepts are useful in identifying Village priorities and redevelopment potentials. In addition, these four design concepts seek to enhance overall connectivity in the area and accommodate the future premium transit planned for SR-7.”

Concept A: A long green would cut diagonally from the northeast corner of the property to the southwest. The concept includes larger blocks with a sports complex and light industrial areas closer to State Road 7 and residential and mixed-use buildings along the green. About 1,000 residential units would be possible, plus retail, restaurants, medical and general office space, and recreational facilities.

The central feature of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council's Concept A to redevelop the Mall at Wellington Green is a sprawling, diagonal green space.

Photos by Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.

Concept B: A large sports facility would replace one of the department stores. A central street running northwest to southeast would connect Olive and Lime drives. Nearly 1,100 residential units would be possible, along with retail, restaurants, offices and a public green.

Central to Concept B to redevelop the Mall at Wellington Green is a diagonal road connecting two of the key entry points to the mall property.

Concept C: The “most aggressive” approach to preserve the mall buildings would cut a diagonal across the development with a green “necklace” of connected open spaces. This plan has about 1,500 residential units with a major focus on commercial uses, including retail and restaurants, and the extensive public green.

Open space is a major focus of all of the redevelopment possibilities, including Concept C, seen here.

Concept D: A mixed-use town center would feature a network of streets, blocks and smaller open spaces. The plan has about 1,500 residential units, plus 100,000 square feet of general and medical offices and up to 150,000 square feet of light industrial and “maker-space uses,” which the study defines as anything from artist studios to brew pubs.

All of the redevelopment concepts for the Mall at Wellington Green include public transit options. This rendering shows what a light rail station could look like with Concept D.

All of the concepts include public transportation, with light rail possible. A rendering for Concept D shows a possible light-rail station at the Mall at Wellington Green.

At Wellington’s current tax rate, the redevelopment concepts could generate $900,000 to $1.2 million in annual taxes for Wellington, the study says.

It’s unclear what will happen with the concepts. A developer would have to unite the property owners within the core site and gain a consensus on the plans for any major redevelopment to move forward.

Still, Wellington can turn to the study for inspiration should a developer step forward, the report notes.

Village officials plan to discuss the study during upcoming meetings.


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