Options for a “Plan B” if the Mall at Wellington Green falls down and can’t get up include maybe 1,500 residential units, a retail and office array, and perhaps even a sports complex, according to a report presented last month to a key Wellington advisory board.
All of this is happening while no one yet knows if the mall might live on for years or even decades with reinvented purpose and vigor, but Wellington officials wanted somebody to think about the possibilities and write a report.
Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board heard an overview of the report on Wednesday, Oct. 18.
The taxable value of the Mall at Wellington Green dropped 70 percent from $246 million in 2016 to $72 million in 2022, said Dana Little, urban design director for the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, which prepared a report for the village.
“As a team, we started to think, well, what is Plan B?” he said.
In general, the super-regional shopping mall, once a stalwart of American culture, has lately slipped into the pressure-cooker. Many regional shopping malls were closing around the country, even before the pandemic made life that much more difficult for indoor retail venues.
However, closings have not been universal, with some malls weathering the storm better than others. “The really good ones would remain,” Little said.
Much of the woes for indoor shopping malls stem from problems in the large department store industry, which serve as traditional anchors. Dillard’s and Macy’s may be doing relatively well in Wellington, in Little’s understanding, but Nordstrom has left and JCPenney has been embattled, he said.
“You’re not going to get a lot of forewarning if the mall goes into foreclosure, or it goes dark,” Little said. “You’re going to find out about it one day and, not that we want that to ever happen, but if it does, you need to have a game plan.”
Current owner, the Spinoso Real Estate Group, has been working to diversify the mall’s offerings to include service industries and experiences, in addition to more traditional retailers.
“The Mall at Wellington Green is a beautiful blend of Mediterranean style and local architectural traditions,” according to its web site. “Featuring some of the most popular and sought-after fashion retailers, the Mall at Wellington Green is located in the heart of Palm Beach County and is the premier year-round shopping destination for both residents and South Florida visitors.”
Attempts to reach them for comment on the presentation were not immediately successful.
In 2019, the village learned the assessed value of the Mall at Wellington Green was going to drop by nearly half, and commissioned research exploring various economic possibilities for the mall area, village staff members said.
“I would say you could do something urban that doesn’t require 1,500-, 1,200-square-foot apartments,” Board Member Tracy Ciucci said. “I would see urban meaning more entertainment, green spaces, parks, sports complexes, things that benefit all of Wellington.”
The TCRPC report discusses a vision for a “downtown Wellington” and talks about a “regional indoor sports facility” of 100,000 square feet that could be accommodated within the mall property. However, it does not go into detail about what particular sports would be served.