Hobby Lobby, a nationwide chain of arts-and-crafts stores with 43,000 employees and annual revenues over $5 billion, is moving into the Berlin Mall in the space once occupied by the JCPenney store. In addition to the former JCPenney space, the new store will incorporate the four adjoining store fronts, for a total of 49,000 square feet. “When searching for new tenants, we consider the role that our centers play in their various communities,” said Jason Lazar, chief operating officer of Heidenberg Properties, owners of the Berlin Mall, in a released statement. “As the Berlin Mall transforms itself to a new town center and we create opportunities for Central Vermont residents to shop, promote wellness, live, and gather, we believed that the arts-and-crafts industry was well-positioned to capitalize on the rise of do-it-yourself as well as increased engagement among ‘makers’ trends.” With the existing Walmart at one end and Hobby Lobby at the other, the mall will again have two anchor stores, plus Planet Fitness in the center. The mall is central to the ongoing development of the site as the Berlin town center. Kohl’s was added across the mall road in 2016, and Chestnut Place, a 98-unit independent- and assisted-living facility is under construction next to Walmart. Chestnut Place, which is owned by Dousevicz Real Estate Management in Essex, is expected to open by April 2022. According to a mall spokesperson, Hobby Lobby is expected to open in the summer or fall of 2022. Heidenberg Properties and the Berlin select board have been working together toward development of the town center. Two other projects, Fox Run Residential Housing — a 30-unit affordable housing facility — and a free-standing Starbucks, are expected to go through the local zoning application process soon.Word about Hobby Lobby coming to the mall has been circulating for a couple of weeks. The Bridge just received confirmation from Heidenberg Properties that the contract has been signed and the project is moving forward. While proponents of the Berlin town center are likely to welcome the arrival of Hobby Lobby, the company has sometimes been controversial for positions or actions, including its 2012 lawsuit against being required to fully participate in the Affordable Care Act because of the owners’ opposition to abortion; the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A privately owned chain with headquarters in Oklahoma, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., has over 930 stores in 47 states. The closest is in Claremont, N.H., and there are others in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Holyoke, Mass. Although there used to be a Hobby Lobby in Rutland, there is currently not one in Vermont.