In late October, tenants at Great Northern Mall found notes on their store fronts instructing them to leave by November 20th. After push back from tenants themselves and the buyer of the mall, there appeared to be wiggle room on that close date; this week, the mall manager told tenants that November 20th is in fact the close date, and they’d need to make direct accommodations with owner Mike Kohan if they couldn’t leave by then.
“I have to close the mall on No 20,” a text from the mall manager to one tenant reads, “You have to call Mike up to make arrangements for anything past the 20th. No one is allowed in without his permission after that date.”
CNY Central spoke with Kohan over the phone, at first declining an on-camera interview. He said they are working on making accommodations with tenants that need them, but maintains that he needs to close the mall by the 20th.
“We’re going to keep everybody happy,” said Kohan.
When CNY Central asked why he needs to close the mall by that date, he referenced the future sale of the property to Hart Lyman Companies. He did not respond to our questions about whether or not he had provided enough legal notice to tenants.
Ryan McCall, an attorney with Tully Rinckey specializing in landlord disputes, said there are clear issues with how this has unfolded, explaining that under state law, Kohan needed to provide tenants with at least 30 days notice. In some cases, they need to have been provided an entire calendar month; meaning if they got this notice in October, they should have had until December 1st.
“If they’re not out by that date [November 20th], its not as if the landlord can just show up and say alright I’m taking all your stuff out. They need to take them through the proper channels, meaning going to court appearances which in commercial tenant evictions, these matters can be drawn out over a significant period of time,” said McCall.
Guy Hart Jr., the head of the company purchasing Great Northern, said that he has gone back and forth with Kohan on the mall closing, and indicated they could be flexible on the sale date to give tenants more time.
According to Hart Jr., Kohan had confirmed to him through their brokerage firm SRS that he would be comfortable pushing back the sale closure date to give tenants more time. Hart Jr. said that otherwise, until he owns the building, he has no legal input on what Kohan does with the mall and the tenants.
Tenants we spoke to Thursday said they still plan to get out by November 20th, not trusting Kohan to provide the resources they’ll need to get back into the building after that date passes.
Great Northern is expected to be developed into a pedestrian-friendly lifestyle center with high-end retail and grocery stores, a movie theater, and other amenities under new leadership after Hart Jr. announced the agreement in August.
Great Northern Mall has struggled for years, with tenants citing leaky roofs, potholes, parking lots not being plowed, and a lack of lighting in the parking lots as issues they’ve faced.
In the past year, the mall closed down several times for maintenance issues.
On January 17, during a stretch of subzero temperatures, the mall closed for issues involving the HVAC system and burst pipes. At first, it was only supposed to be shut down for the day. Yet the mall remained closed for weeks as it faced repair delays and additional problems with a sprinkler system.
In February, CNY Central uncovered the mall’s owner had been cited 14 times for maintenance and safety issues including a disabled fire protection system.