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Atrium Mall losing more stores

Gap is the latest to leave upscale site

Clothing retailer Gap will shutter its store at the Atrium Mall tonight, adding to a wave of departures over the past two years that has nearly emptied the once prosperous shopping destination on Route 9 in Newton.

Gap and GapKids will shut its doors after the mall closes for the night, Les Morris, a spokesman for the Simon Property Group, which owns the Atrium, said in an e-mail.

Borders Books & Music, Williams-Sonoma, Abercrombie & Fitch, and luxury jewelry store Tiffany & Co. have already exited in quick succession. Jeweler Ross-Simons and J.Crew, which opened one of its first shops nationwide at the Atrium, are also planning to move out in the coming months.

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Simon is trying to sell the mall, company representatives said.

Once a beacon to upscale shoppers in Boston’s western suburbs, the Atrium has been crippled mainly by the growth in competition from other high-end malls, such as Legacy Place in Dedham and the Natick Mall, said Robert Sheehan, vice president of research for KeyPoint Partners, a Burlington commercial real-estate service firm.

“That kind of cut business off from the western suburbs,’’ Sheehan said.

The Atrium also always lacked an anchor tenant and the unusual four-level concept probably deterred some shoppers, he said.

“They’ve lost business, and Simon is going to Plan B to redevelop the site and sell the site,’’ Sheehan said.

Simon officials have been tight-lipped about their plans.

The Atrium’s change in fortunes comes as the retail landscape around Route 9 is on the rebound.

Nearby, WS Development is planning to renovate and expand the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center with an upscale movie theater in the empty Macy’s building. And specialty grocery chain Wegmans has announced that it will anchor the Chestnut Hill Square project on the former Omni Foods Supermarkets site on the other side of Route 9.

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When the Atrium opened in 1989 with its signature skylight, gold-toned finishes, and boutique stores, it stood out among the more traditional malls.

Now, swaths of each of the four floors are dark with empty storefronts. After Gap closes there will be just 14 retailers remaining in the Atrium.

Muhammed Irfan, the owner of home good store Decor Mantra, said business has slowed since Border’s left and as each store closes, fewer shoppers stop at the Atrium.

At the end of this year his lease will be up, and he is waiting to hear what the new owners plan to do with the Atrium. Irfan said he will likely look for new space in one of the nearby shopping centers.

About its closing, Gap officials said the company is making decisions on a store-by-store basis.

“We’re constantly reevaluating our real estate portfolio to ensure we have the right stores in the right places to best serve our customers,’’ said Liz Nunan, a spokeswoman for Gap, Inc.

Other retailers are also in conversations with Simon about their future in the mall.

Ross-Simons, a jewelry store, is moving to the Mall at Chestnut Hill across the street from the Atrium on Route 9, and Tiffany & Co. is already in the Mall at Chestnut Hill. Simon also owns the Mall at Chestnut Hill property.

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J.Crew is also planning to move there, although details are still being finalized, a store manager said.

The Atrium’s location in a high-traffic corridor, amid affluent neighborhoods close to Boston, makes it a prime commercial site for whatever comes next, Sheehan said.


Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com.