The vacant Sears store at Smith Haven Mall will become medical...

The vacant Sears store at Smith Haven Mall will become medical offices.  Credit: James Carbone

Patients will replace the shoppers who used to visit Sears in Lake Grove.

Stony Brook Medicine’s Clinical Practice Management Plan will expand its outpatient services with a new facility in the former department store building at Smith Haven Mall.

Stony Brook is in the design stages for the multi-specialty care facility, Stony Brook said in a statement Thursday.

"In this new patient care center, patients will have access to expert clinicians skilled in diagnosing and treating a wide range of medical conditions in one, convenient location," Dr. Hal Paz, executive vice president for the Health Sciences at Stony Brook University, said in the statement. "It will also provide a new educational resource for residency training of our future health care professionals."

The Smith Haven Mall facility will house physician offices, an infusion site for non-cancer patients, a pain management center, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital outpatient offices and other operations, Stony Brook said. The mall is about 4 miles from Stony Brook University Hospital.

The first phase of the center is set to open in late spring 2022, according to Dr. Margaret M. McGovern, the vice president of Health System Clinical Programs and Strategy for Stony Brook Medicine, who is leading the project.

Through an affiliate, Bethpage-based real estate company Steel Equities bought the former Sears and former Sears Auto Center property at the mall in June from Sears’ parent company, Transform Holdco LLC, doing business as Transformco.

Stony Brook has signed a 31-year lease with Steel Equities, the health care system said.

Steel Equities did not respond to Newsday’s requests for comment.

The two-level Sears building is 169,453 square feet and the auto center is 49,046 square feet.

The parcel, which totals 19.43 acres, is located in two municipalities: 6.81 acres are in the town of Smithtown and 12.62 acres are in the village of Lake Grove, according to Transformco's website.

More offices, fewer stores

An anchor store at Smith Haven Mall, the Sears closed in May 2020. It was among six Sears' closings on Long Island between April 2018 and October 2021 that left the retailer with no presence in the area.

Department stores nationwide have been shuttering for several years amid growing competition from big-box discounters and online retailers. The COVID-19 pandemic, which led to months of government-mandated business shutdowns, starting in March 2020, exacerbated brick-and-mortar retail problems.

So, landlords of vacant retail property are increasingly courting tenants, such as medical offices, restaurants and gyms, that are less susceptible to the online competition that battered brick-and-mortar stores.

For example, Steel Equities also owns another former Sears building, which it bought in 2018, that is slated for medical use on Long Island. NYU Langone Health plans to open an ambulatory care center in that freestanding former Sears in Garden City.

At regional malls nationwide, the share of office and other non-retail tenants rose from 12.9% to 21% between the second quarters of 2017 and 2021, according to Innovating Commerce Serving Communities, formerly known as the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group in Manhattan.

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