The new owner of the Source Mall in Westbury plans to invest about $25 million to renovate and transform a portion of the property into showroom space for its China-based home furnishings and building products business.
Lesso Mall Development Long Island Inc., a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Lesso Group Holdings Ltd., purchased the mall for $92 million at the end of May, and plans to complete renovations on the property next year. The Chinese firm also purchased the Fortunoff building on the property.
The company, which manufactures and sells home-building materials, such as plumbing products, and home decor items, plans to turn roughly half of the 512,528-square-foot mall into a product showroom for commercial and consumer sales by next year. The mall is mostly vacant now.
“We would like to open it next summer,” Michael Mai, an attorney for Lesso Group’s international businesses, said last week. While the timeline may seem somewhat ambitious from New York’s perspective, Mai said, “that’s how we do things back in Hong Kong.”
The project represents Lesso’s “debut in New York,” though the company’s American division, Lesso America Inc., has operated out of Carona, California, for years, Mai said.
Plans for the adjacent 210,798-square-foot former Fortunoff store have not been finalized, he said.
David Bernacchi, owner of the Pets4Luv Foundation, one of the mall’s few remaining tenants, said he met with the new owners last month and was finally feeling optimistic about the mall’s future.
Current tenants also include P.F. Chang’s Bistro, Dave & Busters, the Cheesecake Factory, the Fortunoff Backyard Store and Fortunoff Fine Jewelry.
“We were getting worried because more and more places were leaving,” said Bernacchi, who founded his pet rescue and adoption center in 2008 and moved to the Source Mall over a year ago. On average, the nonprofit cares for more than 90 animals at a time. “They reassured us that they liked what we were doing and were going to keep us,” he said.
While Bernacchi said he had a good relationship with the mall’s management and that his monthly rental rate was “very, very fair,” the mall’s layout, which currently sports a foodless food court and lacks a major entryway, has proved confusing to guests visiting his organization.
“My standard joke is that when they originally built this place, the engineers must have been drinking the night before,” Bernacchi said, laughing.
Among the planned interior and exterior renovations, Mai said, are plans to “fix” the mall’s accessibility issues.
“People find it a bit confusing and hard to navigate parts of the mall,” Mai said. “One of the big ideas is to have a main entrance to the mall.”
Lesso will be unveiling early renderings for the site and provide some additional details on its planned improvements at a press event Thursday, he said.
As of late last year the property, originally built in 1996 for $200 million, carried an unpaid loan balance of $124 million, according to Trepp LLC, a Manhattan-based tracker of commercial mortgage-backed securities.