Stores at Steeplegate Mall told to leave in January

A Christmas Carol will run through Dec. 17 at the Hatbox Theatre.

A Christmas Carol will run through Dec. 17 at the Hatbox Theatre. Courtesy

The east entrance of the Steeplegate Mall in Concord on Monday afternoon.

The east entrance of the Steeplegate Mall in Concord on Monday afternoon.

Conceptual plans submitted to the city of Concord show a proposed replacement for Steeplegate Mall and Regal Cinema, between Loudon Road and Sheep Davis Road. The Regal Cinema property is the smaller on the upper lefthand portion of the map. Applebee's restaurant, in the lower left, and TD Bank building, on the center-right, would not be affected.

Conceptual plans submitted to the city of Concord show a proposed replacement for Steeplegate Mall and Regal Cinema, between Loudon Road and Sheep Davis Road. The Regal Cinema property is the smaller on the upper lefthand portion of the map. Applebee's restaurant, in the lower left, and TD Bank building, on the center-right, would not be affected.

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 11-25-2023 9:00 AM

Modified: 11-28-2023 9:58 AM


Stores without long-term leases at Steeplegate Mall, including Hatbox Theatre, have received notice that they must leave by the end of January, the latest step in a plan to turn the site into a large mixed-use development.

“We were hoping to finish the season through May or June,” said Andrew Pinard, founder of Hatbox. “We just received legal paperwork. We have to be out by the end of January.”

It appears that the situation is the same for Talbots, Chico’s and All-Stars Pickleball.

Things are likely different for JC Penney, the Zoo Health Club and Altitude Trampoline Park, which have long-term contracts. Initial plans for the development presented by Onyx Partners of Needham, Mass., keep those three on the site amid five residential buildings that would hold 625 apartments.

Onyx has also bought the adjoining Regal Cinema site, which will be part of the total development. They plan to demolish the movie theater. Initial proposals show other large retail spaces for stores such as Costco or Whole Foods. Construction may start next year, depending on the pace of approvals from the city.

As for Hatbox Theatre, Pinard said it appears the upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol” from Dec. 1-17 will be the final main stage show although Pinard, who is a professional magician, said he may hold one or two more of his “Discovering Magic” shows.

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“If you haven’t been here yet, you haven’t got much time left,” he said.

Hatbox had scheduled 15 more productions through next fall, ranging from “Heathers: The Musical” to a night with five one-act plays by local playwrights to a performance of the satirical songs of Tom Lehrer.

Pinard said he’d like to at least hold some of those productions elsewhere but noted that “at this late date, it is hard to get into someone else’s venue. We’re probably going to have to suspend operations at least until February, if not longer.”

Hatbox opened in 2016 in what had been a Coldwater Creek store, heralding efforts by then-owners Namdar Realty to move the struggling mall beyond traditional retail. The theater has flourished even as the mall has slowly emptied by offering a small alternative to the Capitol Center for the Arts and its adjoining Bank of NH Stage for local performing arts.

“Keeping a diverse arts community is important,” Pinard said.

Pinard said he has been looking for an alternative site for Hatbox for a while, so far without success, although a friend in Laconia has provided storage space for sets and other equipment that the 100-seat theater has accumulated.