WILTON — Officials from the Wilton Mall, Macerich, and Paramount Development met on Tuesday to discuss proposed plans to add nearly 400 apartments and townhomes on the site of the mall’s former Bon-Ton location.
The group included Wilton Mall General Manager Mike Shaffer, Tom Settle, Principal at Paramount Development, and Tawney Farmer, Macerich Vice President of Development. Shaffer said the project can be a “catalyst” for attracting new uses to the mall.
“The project is really about economic revitalization, and ensuring that we continue to contribute to the Town of Wilton the way we have historically, and also continue to make this a vibrant shopping center with mixed-use and new uses that are essential in today’s environment for malls of our nature,” said Shaffer.
First proposed to the Wilton Town Board in April 2022, the project would see the development of 296 apartments and 86 townhomes in place of the former Bon-Ton location.
Bon-Ton closed in 2018, and has been vacant since. Wilton Mall partnered with Paramount Development in May 2021, and began developing plans for apartments.
Roughly half the apartments will be one-bedroom, said Settle, while townhomes will primarily be two- and three-bedroom units. The plans also include a clubhouse between 12,000 and 20,000 square feet, and Settle said the group has looked into amenities such as an indoor pool.
“We want to do as much as we can afford to do,” said Settle. “We’re going to do what everybody else does, and then some.”
Surface-level and garage parking will be available to residents. Settle said the complex would have a gated entry that residents can access via their phones, and other smart features. Rent is expected to begin around $2,000, Settle said.
Tawney Farmer, Vice President of Development at Macerich, said they envision the mall becoming a “town center.” The goal is to attract more entertainment, dining, and retail spaces back to mall property.
“It’s going to drive traffic to the property, not just to shop for retail, but for restaurants, and for entertainment, and visiting people who live here,” said Farmer. “We’re trying to create a place where the community wants to be, not just to shop.”
“And what better amenity to a residential community than having shopping and restaurants just outside your door?,” Shaffer added. “The project will also be pedestrian friendly, offering convenient access to Wilton Mall via sidewalks and green space.”
Shaffer said the mall’s first venture into mixed-use was when Planet Fitness and Healthy Living Market opened in the former location of J.C. Penney in 2012 and 2013. More recently, Saratoga Hospital moved parts of their operation into the former Sears location in 2020.
“As we continue to bolster our property for success, it’s important once again we look beyond the traditional plans to replace a former anchor that has been vacant for some time,” said Shaffer.
Shaffer and Farmer said there is general interest in the area, but that many companies are seeking visibility on Route 50.
“There’s not a lot of vacancy on Route 50, and there’s interest in this market,” Shaffer said. “We need to be able to offer some additional reasons besides the traditional mall to attract that interest.”
“Everybody wants that Route 50 frontage, they want that visibility,” added Farmer. “But if we can create a destination, it’s a different story. … There are national restaurant chains interested in the area, but they want to be on Route 50. The signage is one of the things too that we show in the renderings.
“In the future, we can do that to get them the Route 50 visibility, but they’d be in the property, either in the parking lot or in the mall. So we need this first domino to fall, and then we can hit the retailers hard and get the interest back.”
The project will operate in two phases, Shaffer said. Phase one would consist of the apartment developments, the demolition of Bon-Ton, and “some additional green space” and landscaping between the apartments and the mall. The townhomes would be constructed as part of the second phase.
Shaffer said infrastructure for the plans are already in place due to the mall. He said a traffic study did not identify additional impacts to area traffic, with Farmer saying the mall was, “built for traffic.”
“It’s built in close proximity to the highway,” said Farmer. “It’s built to handle a lot more traffic than it’s getting, that’s for sure.”
Shaffer said he has served as the mall’s general manager for 11 years, and spent 30 years in retail prior. He is a resident of the Town of Wilton, he said.
The Town of Wilton Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend approval of the project to the Town Board, provided they show renderings of the project. An update on the project, including the renderings, will be presented at the upcoming board meeting on March 2 at 7 p.m. at 22 Traver Road in Gansevoort, with the group saying they are hoping the board will set a public hearing.
More information on the project is available at reimaginewiltonmall.com.