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Tussle Over Electric Bill Plunges New York Mall Into The Dark

In perhaps a further sign of the decline of the American shopping mall, the lights suddenly flickered out today in the Rotterdam Mall in upstate New York after the electric utility cut power for non-payment.

In a statement issued by National Grid, the utility said it "has been working with the owners of the Rotterdam [Square] Mall for several months to set up a payment plan that would benefit both the mall and National Grid.

"Despite our attempts to work with the customer, they have been unable to reduce their balance owed for the energy they have used," it said.

The Albany Times Union notes that the mall, near Schenectady, is "coping with the departures of four retailers, including Macy's, and has at least 16 vacant storefronts." The paper quotes the owner Mehan Kohansiek of Kohan Retail Investment Group as saying that the power outage was due to "a total misunderstanding." (Mehan Kohansiek also goes by the name of Mike Kohan.)

The newspaper says that National Grid notified the mall on Wednesday that it was going to shut off power.

According to Albany Business Journal:

"The mall received a similar shutdown notice in November but was able to avoid losing power before Black Friday and the busy holiday shopping season.

"Mike Kohan, president of Kohan Retail Group on Long Island ... told the Albany Business Review in November that he had to quickly borrow $100,000 at the time to pay off a portion of the mall's outstanding power bill.

"Kohan previously said that monthly utilities at the mall, which is heated by electricity, cost $80,000."

Last year, Business Insider, quoting Green Street Advisors, reported that 15 percent of malls will fail or be converted into non-retail space in the next decade and pointed to the departures of such traffic-driving anchor stores as Sears and JCPenney.

In another article from last year, The New Yorker, noting the rapid growth of online retailers, noted that so many malls were closing that there's even a website devoted to "dead malls."

"Within ten to fifteen years, the typical U.S. mall, unless it is completely reinvented, will be a historical anachronism—a sixty-year aberration that no longer meets the public's needs, the retailers' needs or the community's needs," Rick Caruso, the C.E.O. of Caruso Affiliated, one of the largest privately held American real-estate companies told an audience last year, according to The New Yorker.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

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