Mall launches free 'community space'

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo The owners of the Berlin Mall are offering some vacant space in the mall rent free for the right tenant.

BERLIN — Owners of the Berlin Mall are putting their vision where some vacant space is. Hoping to advance the “town center” concept they’ve been pursuing with officials in Berlin for some time, Berlin Mall LLC has taken the 3,000-square-foot storefront next to J.C. Penney off the market for at least a year in order to create a mall-based community space. They’ve dubbed it “The HUB at Berlin Mall” — raw, rent-free space that can be available on request for an assortment of uses that range from one-day charity events to eight-week classes Cabot consultant Michael Rushman, who serves as the mall’s director of marketing and strategic planning, said it’s a very small part of a broader vision that contemplates converting the mall property into Berlin’s equivalent of a Vermont downtown. “Part of what we’ve been trying to do is bring activities and uses to the mall that go beyond just shopping,” Rushman said. “This is one of those things.” Rushman said he is eager to see who applies to use all or part of the space for classes, performances or other community events. “There will be multiple people using the space,” he said, noting the space is free, comes with utilities and WiFi and the possibilities are endless. “You could have somebody giving yoga lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 to 11 (a.m.),” he said. “You could have somebody doing painting classes on Saturday mornings, or a square-dance group coming in on Friday nights.” Though the space isn’t available for retail use, Rushman said, charging for classes or performances is perfectly fine and something like a charity auction would likely be approved. “The more users, the more activity and the greater variety of things, the better from our standpoint,” he said. Rushman said the space could be large enough to accommodate more than one user at a time and that will be considered if the proposed uses are compatible. “We want to keep the space flexible so we can accommodate as many uses as possible,” he said, predicting portable partitions could be used if needed. Like the space, Rushman said the scheduling is flexible. Morning, afternoon and evening slots will be offered. Full days are an option, as are multiple days a week. The space is available on a temporary basis for up to eight weeks at a time. “We want to have there be turnover and variety,” he said. The hope is there will be no shortage of interest in using the high-profile storefront where parking and rent aren't a problem. Mall Manager Gerry Hanifin said that’s the whole point. “From pop-up events to shared workspace to a public meeting place, The HUB at Berlin Mall is a great opportunity for folks to realize their vision and pursue their passion in a supportive community environment,” he said. Those interested in using the space are required to complete an application form, which is available at Hanifin’s office at the mall, or by emailing thehub@theberlinmall.com. Rushman said a calendar of events will be posted in the window of what he hopes will soon be a frequently used storefront, as well as at the mall’s entrances. david.delcore@timesargus.com

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