While the new owner of the Aroostook Centre Mall in Presque Isle has attracted interest from four national retail stores, he has more immediate plans to get the crippled enterprise up and running again.
Local developer Dana Cassidy, who finalized his purchase of the mall earlier this month, plans to split the complex into sections for retail, office space, recreation and a 50-unit senior housing project. The housing, which could be three years down the road, would be where Maine department store Porteous was located before it closed in October 2003.
Four national chain stores have submitted letters of intent, which means they are interested but no agreements have been made, Cassidy said. They are Hobby Lobby, T.J. Maxx, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Big Lots, he said.
The planned improvements at Presque Isle’s mall comes at a time when other such complexes around Maine are on a steady decline.
“What I’m going to do is pay for it and I am going to bring [the Aroostook Mall] back,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy declined to say how much he paid for the mall. He said he has no debt on the mall purchase.
Three new storefronts are among Cassidy’s plans for the next year and a half: a 4,000-square-foot laundromat costing between $700,000 and $800,000 to build, a $2.5 million trampoline park with an arcade near the front entrance next to Harbour Freight and a $2.4 million 24-hour gymnasium will be in the first phase.
These projects are still in the planning stages, he said.
Cassidy will give the mall more outside entrances to increase access points and to make it more convenient for customers, he said.
Last year, the Aroostook Mall lost $1 million and wasn’t profitable. Cassidy is losing approximately $90,000 per month to run the mall, but he has paid for the taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance, he said. He had the parking lot repaved recently.
There was approximately $2 million in debt owed by previous owner Aroostook Center Mall Realty Holding LLC, including $173,838.13 in back taxes owed to the city. The $2 million also included the overdue electric utility bills that VIP, Harbor Freight and JCPenney had been charged when investment group owner Michael Kohan didn’t pay them. Cassidy paid for the overdue utilities and maintenance bills, but not the taxes.
Cassidy has hired Kennedy Financial Discovery LLC to handle bookkeeping, payroll for Aroostook Mall staff, auditing services and merchant services if needed, said Brady Mahan, senior auditor for Kennedy Financial Discovery LLC. The payroll for the Aroostook Mall is around $500,000, according to Cassidy.
The current tenants include a mix of big box stores, small businesses and nonprofits, including Bumble B Stockroom, Chopsticks, JCPenney, Harbour Freight, Crown Collectibles and Wintergreen Arts Center.
Cassidy explained his plans during a meeting on Tuesday with about 18 people from the tenant businesses in the mall.
One point of contention Tuesday was Cassidy’s plan for a trampoline park, which conflicts with the plans All Star Gymnastics had for their trampoline park called the All Star Galaxy Fun Zone. All Star Gymnastics has been working on the Fun Zone for more than a year but ran into delays, according to Chloe Wheeler, the business’ manager.
All Star Gymnastics brings approximately 500 students into the Aroostook Mall.
The Aroostook Centre Mall is one of four major landmarks in Presque Isle, along with the international airport, Northern Maine Community College and University of Maine at Presque Isle, Cassidy said.
“If we don’t retain what we have for the population of people you can’t go forward,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy also owns Cassidy Compound, an event space that used to house Crow’s Nest Restaurant, and several residential properties through Cassidy Property Management in Presque Isle and Caribou, as well as Sudsie’s Landromat in Caribou. Cassidy also owns Skowhegan Village Plaza in Somerset County.