Via Port Rotterdam: From Shopping Mall to Entertainment Hub in Rotterdam, NY

The Origins and Evolution of Via Port Rotterdam

Via Port Rotterdam opened on September 1, 1988, under Rotterdam Square. Wilmorite Properties, a notable real estate developer, managed the mall at its inception. The mall spanned 900,000 sq ft and offered a single-level shopping experience.

Early anchor stores included Hess’s, later Filene’s, and Macy’s. The opening marked a key development in the retail landscape of Rotterdam, New York.

In 2005, The Macerich Company, a prominent player in commercial real estate, acquired Wilmorite Properties. This acquisition included Rotterdam Square, expanding Macerich’s portfolio of shopping centers.

The transition to new ownership did not immediately alter the mall’s retail mix but set the stage for future changes. Macerich’s management continued until 2014.

Kohan Retail Investment Group purchased the mall from Macerich in January 2014 for $8.5 million. Kohan, known for acquiring distressed malls, aimed to revitalize the property.

Despite efforts, challenges arose, including the closure of Macy’s in January 2015 as part of a nationwide downsizing. The loss of a major anchor tenant impacted foot traffic and store occupancy rates, reflecting broader trends in retail.

In June 2015, Via Properties acquired the mall for $9.25 million. The new owners rebranded it as Via Port Rotterdam in 2016.

Via Properties announced plans to invest $10 million into mall improvements, including exterior upgrades, a 25,000 sq ft aquarium, and a 30,000 sq ft entertainment center with a bowling alley, sports bar, restaurant, and arcade. 

These enhancements aimed to reposition the mall as a destination for shopping and entertainment.

In the early years, the mall featured a full-size Italian carousel in the food court, a unique attraction that drew visitors.

The carousel operated from 1988 until January 2007, when management sold and removed it. Today, it is located in Southland Mall, Miami.

Additionally, the mall’s site holds historical value with a graveyard dating back to around 1715, originally part of the Vedder Family estate.

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For those exploring things to do in Rotterdam, New York, Via Port Rotterdam remains a point of interest, blending retail, history, and entertainment.

The mall’s history illustrates the dynamic nature of commercial real estate, highlighting shifts in ownership, market conditions, and retail trends over the decades.

Key Features of Via Port Rotterdam

Via Port Rotterdam stands out with its impressive range of features. As a single-level mall, it covers 900,000 sq ft of retail space. This expansive area allows for various stores and attractions, making it a versatile destination for visitors.

The mall houses 28 stores, catering to a wide range of shopping needs. From fashion to electronics, the retail mix offers something for everyone. Shoppers can find well-known brands and local retailers, ensuring a diverse shopping experience.

A food court with 450 seats served as a central gathering spot. It currently provides just a few dining options, from quick snacks to full meals. The food court is complemented by 99Restaurant, which offers more dining choices for visitors.

Entertainment is a key feature of the mall. The ViaAquarium is a major attraction, drawing families and marine life enthusiasts. The entertainment center includes a bowling alley, a sports bar, a restaurant, and an arcade.

Zurich Cinemas operates a seven-screen theater within the mall. The theater features stadium seating, digital projectors, and 3D capabilities.

These features make Via Port Rotterdam a well-rounded destination. It offers ample shopping, diverse dining, and a variety of entertainment options, ensuring visitors have a complete and enjoyable experience.

Notable Events and Changes

Over the years, Via Port Rotterdam has experienced many notable events and changes. These shifts have significantly impacted the mall’s landscape and its role in the community.

Macy’s, which started as Hess’s and later became Filene’s, closed its doors in January 2015. This closure was part of a broader strategy by Macy’s to shut down underperforming stores nationwide.

The loss of this anchor store marked a major change for the mall, affecting its foot traffic and overall appeal.

Via Port Rotterdam Entrance
Via Port Rotterdam Entrance Geotek at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In February 2015, the mall faced another challenge when National Grid disconnected its electric service due to a rumored unpaid utility bill of $300,000.

This issue was quickly resolved, and service was restored the next day. However, this incident highlighted financial and operational difficulties.

Sears closed its store in July 2016, reducing the mall’s draw as a shopping destination. This was part of Sears’ national strategy to close multiple locations.

The trend continued with the closure of Kmart in December 2018. With these closures, the mall lost all its anchor stores, significantly altering its retail environment.

These events reflect broader trends in the retail industry, where traditional department stores have struggled to compete with online shopping and changing consumer preferences.

The closures of Macy’s, Sears, and Kmart underscored the challenges of large shopping centers in maintaining their tenant mix and relevance.

Despite these setbacks, Via Port Rotterdam has continued to adapt and reinvent itself, focusing on entertainment and unique attractions to draw visitors.

The shifts in tenant composition and operational hurdles illustrate the mall’s resilience and ongoing efforts to stay relevant in a changing market.

Environmental Concerns

Via Port Rotterdam’s site holds historical significance. Its roots trace back to the Vedder Family, which has owned the land since 1672. The property’s long history adds an intriguing layer to the mall’s story.

Via Port Rotterdam food court Entrance
Via Port Rotterdam food court Entrance Geotek at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Before the mall’s construction, the surrounding area was a nature preserve. This status raised considerable environmental concerns among local groups.

They worried that building a large commercial complex would harm the local wildlife and disrupt the natural habitat.

Specifically, there was fear that the construction would pollute the wetlands across Route 337, now known as the Great Flats Nature Trail and Preserve.

The developers had to address these concerns during the planning and building phases. Balancing the need for commercial development with environmental preservation posed a challenge.

The controversy highlighted the tension between expanding urban infrastructure and conserving natural spaces.

Today, the Great Flats Nature Trail and Preserve nearby remind us of these early environmental battles. It underscores the importance of maintaining natural habitats even as urban areas expand.

This balance between development and environmental stewardship remains a relevant issue for communities and developers.

Entertainment and Attractions

Via Port Rotterdam offers a range of entertainment and attractions that enhance its appeal beyond shopping.

One of its most unique features was the full-size Italian carousel, which operated from 1988 until January 2007. This carousel was a central attraction in the food court, drawing families and children.

After its removal, the carousel found a new home at Southland Mall in Miami, where it continues to delight visitors.

Via Port Rotterdam graveyard
Via Port Rotterdam graveyard Geotek at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Another distinctive feature of the mall is the Vedder Family graveyard. Dating back to around 1715, this graveyard is located within the mall complex, between the food court entrance and the front side entrance.

It serves as a historical landmark, offering a glimpse into the area’s rich past and adding a unique historical element to the shopping experience.

In addition to these attractions, the mall includes several modern entertainment options. The 25,000-square-foot aquarium is a major draw, providing an educational and engaging experience for visitors of all ages.

The 30,000-square-foot entertainment center offers a variety of activities, including a bowling alley, sports bar, restaurant, and arcade, ensuring there’s something for everyone.

Zurich Cinemas is an independently owned seven-screen theater that adds to the entertainment mix. It provides a top-notch movie-going experience.

These diverse entertainment options help make Via Port Rotterdam a vibrant and multifaceted destination appealing to many visitors.

By blending historical elements with modern attractions, Via Port Rotterdam offers a unique and varied experience beyond traditional shopping.

Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, whether exploring the historical graveyard or watching the latest blockbuster at Zurich Cinemas.

Recent Developments

Recent developments at Via Port Rotterdam signal ongoing efforts to revitalize and diversify the mall’s offerings. These changes aim to enhance its appeal and draw more visitors from the community and beyond.

One of the most exciting recent plans involves the Capital Region Aquatic Center. This facility plans to lease 80,000 square feet within the mall, relocating from Mohawk Harbor.

The aquatic center will include swimming pools, training facilities, and diving areas. This addition promises to make Via Port Rotterdam a hub for aquatic sports and training in the region.

The facility will cater to recreational swimmers and competitive athletes, offering state-of-the-art amenities.

Via Port Rotterdam Carousel
Via Port Rotterdam Carousel Geotek at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Another event highlighting the mall’s dynamic nature is Gillette Shows’ return to the carnival. From May 23 to June 2, 2024, the carnival will bring a festive atmosphere to the mall.

This event includes rides, games, and various attractions, providing fun for families and individuals of all ages. The carnival aims to boost foot traffic and offer visitors a lively, engaging experience.

These recent developments reflect the mall’s ongoing transformation. By introducing new attractions and hosting events, Via Port Rotterdam continues to adapt to its community’s evolving needs and interests.

The addition of the aquatic center and the annual carnival demonstrate a commitment to providing diverse and engaging experiences, ensuring the mall remains a vibrant destination.

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