ENFIELD — The days may be numbered for the once popular Enfield Square Mall, which is a shadow of itself since opening in 1971 with only one major anchor today and few stores in what was once a bustling concourse of national retailers.

Woodsonia Real Estate Group Inc., based in Nebraska, has agreed to purchase the 580,000-square-foot mall from Namdar Realty Group, based in Great Neck, New York, contingent on receiving the necessary approvals. Namdar purchased the property in 2019 for $11.39 million and allowed it to go under disrepair over the years. No details were provided on the pending purchase-and-sale agreement.

“Fingers crossed,” said Enfield Mayor Ken Nelson Jr. about everything falling into place for the sale to go through, which is highly dependent on receiving a state grant of $20 million from the Community Investment Fund or CIF, to help make the project affordable for Woodsonia’s investment.

The redevelopment effort to the tune of $250 million, which Enfield Town Manager Chris Bromson said is likely to exceed that estimate, will be called Enfield Marketplace. After the complete demolition of the mall, only Target would remain in a proposed project that would include space for additional retailers and restaurants built around two hotels and 450 residential housing units.

In addition to Target, several pad sites — a building lot adjacent to a mall or shopping center — will remain including Popeye’s, Wendy’s, Friendly’s, Hannoush Jewelers, Elm Street Mobile Gas Station, and the former Outback Steakhouse, which Nelson said is expected to be torn down to create three structures, one to house a dispensary.

The town’s involvement in the massive redevelopment project began when Nelson said he received a phone call from Woodsonia officials asking questions about Enfield and its demographics, noting they had a potential interest in purchasing Enfield Square, but wanted to learn more before making any decisions.

“I referred them to our town manager who has taken the lead on the project with assistance from the town’s economic development office,” he said.

Just as Woodsonia was doing their due diligence, Enfield officials set out to do their own and learn more about the real estate developer looking to partner with the town.

“They provided us with references and shared the fact that they had purchased other Namdar properties for redevelopment with great success,” Nelson said.

Primarily focused on mixed-use retail development, Woodsonia owns and manages more than 75 properties across the country — ranging from single-tenant commercial buildings to large-scale shopping centers to residential subdivisions and multi-family communities with a combined value of $800 million.

Woodsonia was invited to attend the May 13 Enfield Town Council meeting to learn more about their business and their proposed redevelopment effort for Enfield Square.

“We are excited to roll up our sleeves and get started on this project. We have extensive experience in redeveloping large mall properties. This isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve purchased several enclosed malls. We really cut our teeth in Council Bluffs, Iowa, with a mall called Mall of the Bluffs. That was a 350,000-square-foot enclosed mall with essentially the same story as Enfield — it had completely fallen into disrepair,” said company President Drew Snyder in his presentation to Enfield town officials.

In addition to Council Bluffs, the Enfield Marketplace will be similar to other Woodsonia mall redevelopment projects including Conestoga Marketplace in Grand Island, Nebraska and Cache Valley Marketplace in Logan, Utah.

“The enclosed mall business is really a broken business model at this point. As we all know, e-commerce, online retail, is here to stay. It’s not a fad. It’s had a huge impact on brick-and-mortar retail, and that would include enclosed malls. But a lot of these mall sites are very well located, so they’re optimal for large mixed-use redevelopments or retailer-led redevelopment projects, things of that nature,” Snyder said.

Snyder was upfront during the meeting telling the group that the $20 million from the Community Investment Fund, which is overseen by the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development, is crucial for the project to move forward.

Impressed with what they learned during the presentation, the Enfield Town Council approved resolutions authorizing the town to apply for funding from the Community Investment Fund and another for a 10-year fixed property tax assessment of approximately $7.3 million, to end in October 2033, along with a credit enhancement agreement.

“It was a unanimous vote,” Nelson said.

Nelson noted the current proposal is especially attractive to the town with Nadmar currently seeking another tax assessment appeal in addition others previously granted to them.

“It is costing taxpayers money as their requests result in the property’s value going down which decreases the amount of taxes the town brings in,” he said.

When asked if Enfield needed another hotel or additional housing, Nelson replied “absolutely.”

“There is a great need for market rate housing. I’m a real estate broker and I can tell you our current inventory is the lowest I have ever seen, almost non-existent. Chapman (Apartment Homes) has built high-end apartments in the area and couldn’t build them fast enough to meet the demand,” Nelson said.

“What makes housing units like these so attractive to the younger generation is that many don’t want to be bothered with a home and yard to take care of. They want green neighborhoods and to be able to walk to restaurants and stores and have public transportation close by if they are not working from home,” he added.

Nelson also reflected on the need for additional hotels.

“The buildings on the former MassMutual property here in Enfield are vacant and Fast Track Realty is looking to develop an enormous sports complex at the site that would create an incredible need for additional hotel rooms,” he said.

Now about five weeks since the Town Council met on May 13, Woodsonia and town officials have been busy preparing the CIF application due by June 21.

“Enfield Square is unique and well located for redevelopment, but the challenge is the exorbitant redevelopment costs associated with demolishing the entire structure, all of the existing horizontal improvements needed, taking out all of the utilities, and environmental issues to address such as wetlands,” said Mitch Hohlen, partner, Woodsonia Real Estate Inc.

“On any substantial mall redevelopment, what is typically required is a private-public partnership, which means you need a municipality that prioritizes redevelopment and that has been the case with Enfield. They have been incredible to work with and very supportive in seeing that the many pieces needed to purchase and redevelop the site will be available to us,” he added.

Hohlen noted in light of the “pretty significant costs” associated with the project, they put their heads together with the town to bridge the gaps that remain in spite of potentially receiving the $20 million CIF grant.

“The town has stepped up in a pretty meaningful manner with a tax freeze and TIF. But I can’t emphasize enough how important that $20 million funding is, which will allow us to complete all the necessary site work needed to prepare the land so we can move forward with vertical construction,” he said.

TIF, or tax increment financing, is a financing method utilized by states to catalyze economic development. It works by using new or incremental tax revenue generated by a completed project to repay the costs incurred to fund it.

While it will be several months before any decision is learned about the request for CIF funding, Nelson said he is hopeful that “everything will fall into place.” He was also clear that “no municipal dollars” would be used to help fund the project.

“At this point all I can say about the CIF dollars is that Gov. Ned Lamont has been phenomenal and has had lunch with us [the mayor and town manager] and is well-aware of what the project entails. He is all about mixed-use redevelopment and will truly give it his best effort,” Nelson said.

Enfield’s town manager is optimistic about receiving CIF monies.

“I think what makes our CIF application attractive and unique from others this go-round is the potential big gains on investment. We are seeing a reduction in income from the Connecticut sales tax due to the few stores now remaining in the mall. We also expect with additional hotel occupancy and the migration of Massachusetts residents to Enfield who will contribute to the state income tax, to be a big incentive for the state’s investment in Enfield Square,” Bromson said.

As for what will happen if the CIF monies don’t come through, Hohlen stopped short of saying the project would be shelved.

“I think that we have put the most feasible plan forward to reduce our costs. But without that $20 million the project would not be affordable for us. At the very least, we would need to sit down and reevaluate what makes sense for us to do,” he said.