JEFFERSON VALLEY, N.Y. – This isn’t your parents’ Jefferson Valley Mall.
In fact, soon enough, it may not be a “mall” at all.
“We’re completely letting go of the word ‘mall,’” said Alexa O’Rourke, who was named general manager in November. Before that, she had served as the mall’s marketing director since 2014.
“This is a community gathering space,” she continued.
It’s not just a philosophical approach for O’Rourke, who hinted that the Jefferson Valley Mall may soon be rebranded.
“Stay tuned for that,” O’Rourke said.
By year’s end, the Jefferson Valley Mall will have two gyms (Orange Theory and 24-Hour Fitness) and a soccer center called Footbik, which is opening on the lower level of the mall next to Orange Theory. Depending on the season, shoppers can also stop by the mall’s food trucks and farmers market, hear live music, practice yoga in the center court, relax in the Book Nook, or play a game of cornhole outside Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“Our retailers are of course of No. 1 importance; this is what we’re in the business of doing,” O’Rourke said. “But, even more so than that, our community is of No. 1 importance. And how can we be that community gathering place for not only just Yorktown but upper Westchester in general?”
The Jefferson Valley Mall opened to much fanfare in 1983 and remained a popular destination for decades. However, attendance dwindled over the years and once-popular shops and restaurants were shuttered.
As the town’s second-largest taxpayer (behind Con Edison), concerns mounted about its long-term viability. However, O’Rourke said, there was never a conversation about shutting down the Jefferson Valley Mall.
“There was nobody saying that we were going to give up by any means,” she said.
A plan to renovate the mall began in 2012 under Simon Property Group, the mall’s former owner. Washington Prime Group (formerly named WP Glimcher) spun off from Simon a year later and acquired the mall, continuing the renovation project.
“It’s able to flow better now because now we are under Washington Prime Group,” O’Rourke said. “We have the vision. We have our mission. We have our values. Before, when were owned by somebody else, it wasn’t the top of mind.”
Since that time, the façade has been improved, outdoor entrances were added to certain stores and dozens of new stores and restaurants have opened, such as Ulta Beauty, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Pink, Stone Rose Steakhouse, Charming Charlie, Cinnabon, Home Pie and Bear Mountain Coffee Roasters.
Without revealing specifics, O’Rourke said Washington Prime Group has invested and continues to invest a “significant dollar figure” in renovating the mall.
“Many people believe in this mall,” she said. “We have high-powered executive calls about Jefferson Valley all the time. It is on top of mind, not only from a development perspective of what we’re doing, but in terms of daily heartbeat of events that we’re doing.”
O’Rourke, whose office is located behind the upstairs food court, said she has an open-door policy.
“Any customer can stop in and talk to us,” she said. “What would they like to see? What can they bring in? What can they do? What event can they put on? We’re all brand ambassadors. This is everybody’s community. So, how can we all join hands, touch hands and create something even greater than we are right now?”
Though the retail sections of the mall are fully occupied, O’Rourke said, there is still work to be done in the food court. Once again asking residents to “stay tuned,” O’Rourke said there are things “in the works.”
“We updated the food court and the tiling, and all that stuff is great, but how can we continue to make this local, organic?” O’Rourke said.
Future of Sears
For decades, the Jefferson Valley Mall has been sandwiched between two anchor tenants, Macy’s and Sears, which owned their own properties.
In October, Seritage Growth Properties filed for bankruptcy and announced that many of its Sears and Kmart stores would be closing. Among the affected stores was Sears in the Jefferson Valley Mall, which is in the process of selling off its fixtures before closing for good.
A year before that, Seritage proposed to convert the lower floor of its Sears store into a 38,000-square-foot fitness center and a 37,000-square-foot retail use. The top floor was slated to remain a 67,000-square-foot Sears store.
O’Rourke said the Sears closing will not affect the fitness center plans.
“They have leased their bottom floor to 24-Hour Fitness. That is slated to open up in 2019,” she said. “Then, we will see what is to be determined by the upper level of Sears.”
O’Rourke declined to comment on whether Washington Prime Group was attempting to purchase the Sears space.
“It’s premature to speak to plans for the Sears space, which is owned by Seritage Growth Properties,” she said. “However, regardless of who owns the space, it is excellent retail real estate.”
O’Rourke, who has a passion for health and wellness, said she is not concerned about opening two gyms so close to each other because they have “totally different clientele.”
“Your Orange Theory worker outer is not also going to go into 24-Hour Fitness,” she said. “It’s a different type of person.”
‘Community Gathering Space’
Though many may long for the “good old days” of the Jefferson Valley Mall, O’Rourke is excited for what the future holds for this new “community gathering space.”
“Nothing ever stays the same in life. Everything always changes,” O’Rourke said. “So, it’s how can we stay the most relevant? How can we continue to change? How can we continue to merge together and create synergy and combine that grassroots business with that permanent tenant? I think it’s a continued day-to-day analysis.”
O’Rourke said she wants the mall to be a welcoming space for everyone in the community, from non-profit organizations to entrepreneurs to mall walkers. Lowe’s, slated to open soon at 3220 Crompond Road, just opened a hiring center in the mall.
“It’s another way that we’re utilizing our center here to support the town—not only Yorktown, but the towns around us,” she said. “Lowe’s is opening up in Yorktown. Absolutely, come in and set up a hiring center here. We want to support you and you guys are going to support us as well.”
Last year, the mall hosted a Boo and Brew event in collaboration with Peekskill Brewery; a Valley Con event featuring gaming, comics and cosplay; essential oil workshops and positive living forums; and more.
“We’re breathing our personal passions into the center, knowing that’s authentic and that’s genuine,” O’Rourke said.
The mall has more community events planned for 2019, including a Galentine’s Day event “for ladies to come out, sample some wines,” O’Rourke said. Also being discussed is a classic car show and the return of Community Day.
With the popularity of online shopping threatening physical retailers, O’Rourke said, it’s imperative for shopping centers to adapt.
“This is a community gathering place, one-on-one, personal connection, moving our bodies, sweating in Orange Theory—this is not something that you can get from an app,” she said.