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National Retailers Poised To Take Over Sears Space in West Hartford

Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th will occupy a portion of the property now occupied by Sears. Rendering submitted to West Hartford DRAC

The Sears and Sears Auto Center in Corbin’s Corner plans to close for good in January 2017.

Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth will occupy a portion of the property now occupied by Sears. Rendering submitted to West Hartford DRAC

Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th will occupy a portion of the property now occupied by Sears. Rendering submitted to West Hartford DRAC

By Ronni Newton

Sears, a retailer that has been a fixture in West Hartford for more than five decades, announced this week that it will close for good, but plans are already in the works for the redevelopment of the property and at least one national retailer has already signed a lease.

Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, the outlet division of Saks Fifth Avenue, has already signed a lease for a portion of the space, West Hartford Director of Community Services Mark McGovern said. Preliminary plans for the redevelopment have already been submitted to West Hartford’s Design Review and Advisory Committee by property owner Seritage Growth Partners, indicating indicating the location of Saks Off Fifth in the southwest corner of the current Sears space.

According to Saks Fifth Avenue’s website, the company opened its first outlet store in 1992 in Pennsylvania under the name “Clearinghouse.” The name of the outlet division was changed to “Off 5th” in 1995. There are currently three other Off 5th stores in Connecticut, with the closest in the Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets.

Other retailers shown on the design plans are just placeholders, McGovern said, however other tenants are actively being sought. “Our meetings with the developers have indicated that they are working to secure tenants. We are expecting a mix of food retailers and traditional retailers,” McGovern said. He anticipates exterior entrances rather than interior mall space for the redeveloped property.

It appears that one of the other tenants will be REI. Third Quarter Operating Results for Seritage Growth Properties, released late Thursday afternoon, contained the following statement about the company’s property in West Hartford’s Corbin’s Corner: “The Company has submitted a recapture notice for 100% of a three-story Sears store and detached Sears Auto Center at Corbin’s Corner, a dominant shopping center with a prime location in West Hartford. The existing space will be redeveloped for REI, along with additional junior box and small shop retailers, including restaurants.”

There is currently an REI store in Blue Back Square, but General Manager Robyn Rifkin could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th will occupy a portion of the property now occupied by Sears. Rendering submitted to West Hartford DRAC

Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th will occupy a portion of the property now occupied by Sears. Rendering submitted to West Hartford DRAC

Sears has been an anchor in the Corbin’s Corner Shopping Center since it was built in 1961, and McGovern said he believes the property was constructed specifically for the retailer.

According to Seritage’s website, the Sears property totals 159,630 square feet, and the Sears Automobile Center building is 34,760 square feet.

Sears Director of Corporate Communications Howard Riefs said in a statement Thursday: “The Sears store, including the Sears Auto Center, in West Hartford was recently sold to Seritage Growth Partners as part of the agreement in which Sears Holdings leases the store from the Seritage. Under this agreement, Seritage contractually has the right to recapture the space occupied by the store and Sears Auto Center locations. Seritage informed us that they will be exercising that right. Hence, the Sears Auto Center will close in early January 2017 and the store will close in late January 2017.”

“We’ve recently seen a lot of investment in that shopping center,” said McGovern, highlighting the recent openings of Total Wine & More and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry. “We are certainly pleased with what has been presented and the positive impact it will have on that property and the overall community,” he said.

West Hartford Town Planner Todd Dumais said that he anticipates Seritage’s plans for redevelopment of 1445 New Britain Ave. will be submitted to the Town Council later in November or in December and set for public hearing in January 2017.

“We’re obviously excited about a major capital investment in our great community,” McGovern said. He estimated that the investment will exceed $10 million.

“We’re sad to see Sears go but very excited about the new plans,” West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor said Thursday afternoon. She said the new development will be a wonderful resource for the region.

“We’re looking forward to the new state-of-the-art phase of development in Corbin’s Corner,” Cantor said.

Sears will begin its going out of business sale on Nov. 11, and Riefs said that current plans are for the store to remain open through January 2017.

Riefs said that the number of associates employed by Sears in West Hartford is not publicly available. “Those associates that are eligible will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores,” he said in his statement.

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