Locals buy South Hadley Plaza for $2.4 million

  • The now-vacant space which formerly housed Big Y supermarket in the South Hadley Plaza at 501 Newton St., which was purchased last week by Rocco Falzone, Peter Picknelly and the Yee family.  JERREY ROBERTS

  • The former Movie Gallery, left, Friendly's restaurant and Rocky's Ace Hardware in the South Hadley Plaza at 501 Newton St., which was purchased last week by Rocco Falzone, Peter Picknelly and the Yee family.  JERREY ROBERTS

  • Rocky's Ace Hardware, left, and the space that formerly housed the Big Y supermarket in the South Hadley Plaza at 501 Newton St., which was purchased last week by Rocco Falzone, Peter Picknelly and the Yee family.  JERREY ROBERTS

  • The South Hadley Plaza at 501 Newton St. was purchased last week by Rocco Falzone, Peter Picknelly and the Yee family.  JERREY ROBERTS

  • Andy Yee, from left, Peter Picknelly and John Falcone are among the businessmen who bought the South Hadley Plaza at 501 Newton St. SUBMITTED PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 5/23/2016 8:31:51 AM

SOUTH HADLEY — The shopping plaza near the intersection of Newton and Lyman Streets, which has been largely vacant for the last several years, is under new ownership and poised to add retail outlets.

Three local businessmen announced last week that they purchased what they are now calling South Hadley Plaza at auction for slightly more than $2.4 million. Rocco Falcone of Rocky’s Hardware is the managing partner, with a 40 percent stake in the property. His associates in the deal, each with a 30 percent stake, are Peter Picknelly of Peter Pan Bus Lines in Springfield, and the Yee Family, whose South Hadley businesses include Johnny’s Bar and Grille, Johnny’s Taproom and IYA Sushi & Noodle Kitchen.

The assessed value of the property is $5,806,100.

They purchased the property, which has about 90,000 square feet of retail space, from Wells Fargo, which held the mortgage.

Falcone, Picknelly and Andrew Yee said in separate interviews last week that they are looking forward to revitalizing the plaza. “We are very optimistic that in two months you are going to start to see a lot of activity there,” said Picknelly.

He said they would begin by “fixing up the signs and dressing up the plaza” while they look for tenants.

He said the group is also willing to invest in building out some of the spaces depending on tenant needs. “The first phase was to buy it and now we are preparing marketing portfolios,” he said.

Falcone, who owns a chain of 31 Rocky’s Ace Hardware stores in New England and four in Florida, is one of the current tenants of what has been called the Woodlawn Plaza. He is already making plans to expand the hardware store that is located there, possibly adding a garden center.

Big Y departed

The main tenant, until it left several years ago, was a Big Y supermarket.

According to Town Administrator Michael Sullivan, a source of frustration to the community was that Big Y kept its lease on the Newton Street property after it built another, larger store on Willimansett Street a little more than a mile away.

Even though the 60,000 square feet of retail space remained vacant in the plaza, the town of South Hadley never missed a tax payment, Sullivan said.

However, the prolonged absence of a tenant for a major retail space took its toll on the rest of the plaza turning it into what Sullivan termed “a toxic asset” for its out-of-town owners. “It’s been a disturbing, decaying retail cavity and a blemish,” he added.

According to Sullivan, David Chase built the plaza in 1964 and ownership was transferred to group called the South Hadley Limited Partnership in 1995. It controlled the property until last November when it went into bankruptcy. Sullivan said his understanding is that this coincided with a decision by Big Y to relinquish its lease.

Sullivan said there was an auction last fall but the price set for an opening bid was too high and nobody participated.

Online auction

Picknelly said the auction through which the group purchased the plaza was a unique business experience for him as it was done online and they did not know who they were bidding against. All they knew that by the last half hour they were in a bidding war that required them to decide in three-minute intervals whether to stay in the competition by increasing the amount they were willing to spend or to drop out.

“It was intense,” said Picknelly. “We were bidding, counter-bidding right up to the last second. We put in our final bid, they had three minutes to counter it and they did not.”

Picknelly said his group’s first bid was a little over a million dollars. He declined to put a number on how high they were willing to go other than to say, “We were getting close to where we thought we were comfortable.”

Sullivan said he is very happy about the group that has now taken ownership. “Having local investors and local developers that know the market and are passionate about where they make their money” will make a big difference, he said. And having the bankruptcy cleared up “removes the cloud for potential tenants that has existed for a long time.”

Potential tenants

Falcone said that his group has already met with potential tenants interested in putting in a grocery store, which is something local businesspeople as well as officials at Mount Holyoke College have told him would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

“There has been some interest with people coming, kicking the tires and looking around,” he said.

“It would be nice to rent to one user, but more likely it will be split in half or in thirds, and if we don’t get any tenants then we have the ability to revise the whole thing and knock a portion down and build a smaller building,” said Falcone.

Besides the hardware store, the plaza already is home to General Cleaners, and three restaurants, Friendly’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Mandarin Gourmet.

There once was a video rental store, which now is also vacant.

Yee said, “We are looking forward to bringing some exciting things to South Hadley and to make it the popular retail center that it used to be.”

He added, “I’ve been living in town all my life and this plaza has gone vacant way too long and we are going to make it a vibrant shopping destination again and we are excited to be part of that.”

Eric Goldscheider can be reached at eric.goldscheider@gmail.com.


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