A new marketing strategy may breathe new life into the largely empty Imperial Mall facility in the coming months.

Corey Stutte, Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce Retail Development Committee member and consultant, said Friday that tenants displaced from the embattled Phoenix Centre property and others looking for largely move-in ready business space may want to consider the mall as an affordable alternative to paying current local market rates of about $8 per square foot.

After communicating with Josh Namdar of Mason Asset Management Inc. in New York, which represents mall owners Namdar Realty, Stutte said he is optimistic the ousted Phoenix Centre tenants and others with small business aspirations may be able to negotiate favorable leases on available mall space going forward.

“We had a very productive conversation,” Stutte said. “They said, ‘We would love to work with these folks. We want to help revitalize the mall and are willing to work with people on lease rates.’

“The rate at the Phoenix Center was $2 per square foot. I don’t know if they’re going to be able to match that, but they said they would find something comparable.”

The Hastings Tribune was not able to reach Josh Namdar for comment.

Marian Turner, who manages the mall properties, said Friday that she has shown a few of the 32 available spaces — not counting the former Sun Mart building and other property on the premises — to an interested former tenant of Phoenix Centre. The next step is for the tenant to negotiate a lease agreement directly with Namdar, she said.

“I had some very long conversations with Josh, our new leasing person, and he said he would negotiate with people here,” Turner said. “We both agree it’s better to get something than to have these business places sitting here empty. I think we’ll be very happy working with him.”

Chamber President Tom Hastings said Friday he is both excited and cautiously optimistic about the opportunities a revitalized mall would bring to the community.

“The mall has been on our radar for a long time,” he said. “We’re fortunate that Corey was able to make contact with the people in New York. We’re very excited.

“The thing that excites me more than anything is that we’re moving in the right direction to hopefully make the mall more vibrant. The people who own it seem very willing to move forward to make it a good space for retail and other businesses or services to locate there.”

Stutte said the retail committee expects to begin aggressively marketing mall properties to potential tenants in the coming months.

“I believe we may have a win-win situation,” he said. “This is a good opportunity to look at the mall as kind of a mixed-use property. I think it’s going to be really good for small businesses, something we badly need here.”

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