STATEMENT BY TOWN SUPERVISOR REGARDING POTENTIAL ACQUISITION OF THE FORMER LORD & TAYLOR DEPARTMENT STORE
On April 24, 2023, the Town held a public hearing regarding the potential acquisition of the former Lord & Taylor site using the Town's power of eminent domain (also known as condemnation). At the hearing, the public was provided an opportunity to comment and present their views.
Towns, like other governmental bodies, have the power to condemn private property for public purposes. Often, this power is exercised in connection with public works such as building railroads, water treatment facilities, dams, roads, sewer systems, utilities, parks, etc., and usually in such cases without private involvement. However, in New York, eminent domain may also be used for economic development purposes. This allows towns and other governmental bodies to undertake economic development projects that increase jobs, broaden the tax base, and bring in tax revenue to fund public services. Promoting economic development is vital to any community and is a public purpose akin to public works projects. For years, municipalities and economic development authorities throughout the State - often involving private developers - have used the power of eminent domain to enable economic development projects that otherwise might not have been possible. Some notable examples of such economic development projects involving eminent domain include the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino in Niagara Falls; the University of Rochester Medical Center orthopedics campus at Marketplace Mall in Henrietta; Destiny USA Mall in Syracuse; and the Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn.
Eastview Mall is a major economic driver in the community, providing valuable jobs, property tax revenue, and sales tax revenue to the Town. However, the commercial vitality of Eastview Mall is being threatened by the ongoing long-term vacancy of the former Lord & Taylor site, which has sat empty for more than two years. This vacancy has already resulted in the loss of jobs and sales tax revenue for the Town. It is presently affecting tenant renewal rates for nearby tenants in the mall's interior, and if it continues, the vacancy could have disastrous long-term effects on the health of an entire wing of the Eastview Mall, if not the entire mall. The Town would be in danger of losing a vital economic driver and a critical source of jobs and tax revenue.
Wilmorite Management Group, LLC and its affiliates have proposed a redevelopment project that involves filling the empty Lord & Taylor building with new tenants. The proposed tenants include a new-to-market retailer and a grocery store. Under Wilmorite's proposal, some space would also be offered to the Town for use to provide governmental services.
As stated at the hearing, the Town has an obligation to advance the general prosperity of its residents and to foster economic development. The Town's economic and public interests are aligned with that of Wilmorite to continue to make Eastview Mall a strong and vibrant attraction.
Dated: June, 2023
TOWN SUPERVISOR OF THE TOWN OF VICTOR