By Nathan Mayberg
LIBERTY April 2, 2004 Sullivans, once the king of department stores in the area, may not sit empty and idle much longer.
Jay Backer of Brooklyn said he closed the deal on Sullivans this past Friday for an undisclosed price. Three months earlier, he obtained the old supermarket next door Great American.
Backer said he intends to turn the two buildings into the "Liberty Mall," which could be connected by a walkway or a third building in between.
Backer said he would spend about $15 million repairing the two buildings and constructing his mall. According to Backer, Sullivans is 98,000 square feet and Great American is 22,000 square feet, for a total of 122,000 square feet. He would like to start construction in two months and complete the project in a years time.
The developer has also purchased the old Apollo Plaza in Monticello with Uri Nussbaum and Harry Freifeld (Mountain Pacific Corporation). The three bought the property housing the former ShopRite on Broadway in Monticello and turned it into Mountain Mall.
Architect Sam Liebman is working with the firm of Liebman Associates/Alfandre Architecture, which has designed plans for all three projects. He said the Liberty Mall would include approximately 30 stores and one major chain. His firm also worked on the Frontier building in Rock Hill and the Gerry Foundations offices in Ferndale.
According to Liebman, the two-story Liberty Mall will have a seating area in between the two buildings with restaurants and kiosks.
George Handforth, who is managing the Apollo Mall and the Mountain Mall projects, said that the interior of the Apollo Mall is currently being gutted and cleaned. The roof is also being repaired.
It is still in good shape, said Handforth. [But] there are areas that need attention.
Backer said the Apollo Mall, a 200,000-square-foot building that was once a popular outlet destination, may be the home of 75-100 stores in the future.
The Mountain Mall is nearly all rented out, according to Backer. In about 30 days, he said, contracts will be completed on all remaining stores.
Aldi, the international supermarket giant, is the biggest store, taking the place of the old ShopRite. The Movie Gallery is currently being constructed on the site, closer to Broadway. The national chain is the rival of Blockbusters.
Mountain Pacific Corporation has also purchased property adjacent to Aldi and expanded the parking lot there. Liebman said construction at the Mountain Mall is 50 percent complete.
Backer is on his way to Las Vegas in May, where many of the major retail chains will be displaying their exhibits. While Backer may bring a major chain to the Liberty Mall, his plans are to go after mid-sized companies.
"I think they are going to do very well," said Backer of his projects. "When the [racino] opens, things are going to really start moving in the mountains."