What's Up with the Dutchess Mall Property?
What was once a major shopping venue now looks like a zombie hangout
One of the many boarded-up storefronts at the Dutchess Mall
Back in the Dark Ages, aka the 1970s, shopping malls were a wondrous thing. When the Dutchess Mall, the first in Dutchess County, opened in Fishkill in 1974, shoppers flocked from near and far to partake in state-of-the-art commerce. Those of a certain age remember special trips to the mall with family and friends, enjoying the holiday decorations, and throwing pennies in the fountain.
But competition soon and ferociously reared its head, in the form of the Poughkeepsie Galleria, the South Hills Mall, and big-box retail chains. Anchor stores like J.W. Mays and Luckey Platt came and went. Other tenants mostly went. Twenty years after it opened, the Dutchess Mall was moribund. Today, on the site of what was once George Washington’s Fishkill Encampment and Supply Depot, a nationally registered landmark where thousands of Continental soldiers kept the British from capturing the Hudson River, the significantly less historic mall is no more, and the site contains a Home Depot, a bank, a McDonalds, a weekend flea market—and, seemingly, 50-plus acres of wasted potential.
Over the years, there have been rumors of new development: a business community called Hudson Valley Metro Centre, a Six Flags amusement park, a women’s prison. Nothing took. How can this be, given the development of the rest of Dutchess County along Route 9?
It’s not for lack of trying, says David Livshin, president and CEO of the Dagar Group, the firm that has managed and marketed the property since the late 1990s. “We have ongoing discussions with a variety of retailers, but, since 2008, there has been a reluctance of retailers to expand.” Indeed, many mall anchors like Sports Authority, Barnes and Noble, and others have struggled since the Great Recession. “It’s not the location—it’s great,” Livshin says. “It’s a question of securing the highest and best users for the market.”
“It’s a market-driven problem,” Fishkill Town Supervisor Bob LaColla agrees. The property still generates sales and tax revenue, he says. “There are some entrepreneurial types at the flea market, so it has some economic activity. It’s not dead. It’s still ambulatory.”
A local advocacy group, though, would prefer that the land be retained for its historic significance. “Our group’s mission is to preserve, study, and interpret the Fishkill Supply Depot National Register of Historic Places district, which includes part of the mall,” says Lance Ashworth, president of the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot, who have contested development of land on the other side of Route 9. “If, at some point, the mall’s owner would be willing to discuss a fair-market sale to our group and its preservation partners, we would absolutely be interested in acquiring the site.”
Who will win: George Washington’s supply depot, or Home Depot? Stay tuned.