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New owners of Westview Center hope to bring it back to life

HASTINGS — The new owners of Westview Center hope to bring the mall back to life. Anne and Maher Ismail will be working to update the building inside and out and fill tenant vacancies.

The building was purchased by Maher and his business partner Abdulla Tobasi, but Maher will be doing most of the construction work with Anne working as the property manager.

Maher and Anne lived on the east coast prior to moving to the midwest in 2001. They were only going to stay in Minnesota for three months while they helped a family member start a restaurant, but they fell in love with the state.

"To be honest with you, the people of the state, that's the only reason we stayed," Maher said.

Anne said both her and Maher have a background in construction and restaurant ownership. Anne is also coming away from 10 years in retail at a department store.

After seeing Westview Center go on the market, they fell in love with the possibility of what it could be.

"We've both been in construction ... so we could look beyond just the beauty and cosmetics and wee could see what something could become and that's what we felt this could be," Anne said.

With years of experience in construction, Maher has plans to update the facility inside and out. He is currently working to remodel one of the suites inside the building. They also have plans to paint the outside of the building and give it an update to make it look a little more fresh. Community members should be able to see some changes in the next couple months, Anne said.

With the desire to re-energize Westview Center, Anne said she sees a lot of potential as far as tenants go. The new management office is located across the hall from the DMV. Gesturing across the hall, Anne said the DMV is always busy and a lot of times parents will be waiting for their kids while pacing up and down the hall.

"We would love to have a little coffee bar," Anne said.

With the Starbucks that was located in Target closing, she said she sees an opportunity for some sort of coffee shop at the mall.

There are several other ideas in the works for tenants including the possibility of a dance studio, restaurants, or an indoor park. However, Anne said they are open to suggestions too. They know what they might like to see, but being new to town they want to hear from the community. They currently reside in Anoka, but Anne said they hope to move to Hastings as soon as they can find a place to live.

Westview Center was originally built in 1977 and Anne said she had heard stories of the many businesses that have been tenants and how it used to be known as the place to go.

"This was the place and that's what we want to make it again, we want to make it the place to be," Anne said.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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