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  Demolition Of Sears Building First Step In Renovations At Southern Park Mall  
  $30 Million Project Will Redesign Mall:   July 4, 2019 Edition  
      associate editor
      According to a variety of sources, demolition work at the Southern Park Mall could get underway this month, the first step in a proposed $25 million to $30 million renovation of the shopping center constructed by the Boardman-based Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. in 1970.
      The mall is currently owned by the Washington Prime Group. Lou Conforti, CEO of WP, was in town in early May, discussing redevelop plans with local leaders, most particularly Mr. DeBartolo’s daughter, Denise DeBartolo-York
      “He is very enthusiastic and has some interesting plans for Southern Park,” Mrs. York told The Boardman News.
      In March, Conforti released a statement saying that “Our promise is that we will make Southern Park Mall as dynamic as ever and maintain its longstanding presence as a gathering place to shop, play, eat and drink. We are in active planning and negotiations for redevelopment alternatives, including new entertainment and dining options, as well as local, regional and national tenancy, which provides differentiated goods and services.”
      WP’s legal team was in town last week and met with Boardman Township Administrator Jason Loree, reviewing preliminary plans for the proposed redevelopment. They reportedly include the construction of a two-story Planet Fitness, the development of a large area of green space that could include an outdoor amphitheater, and a redesign of traffic flow patterns, a potential community bike trail, as well as upgrades to the mall’s storm water management system.
      Additionally, there have been recent discussions with the Boardman Fire Department regarding demolition plans for the former Sears department store.
      A key element in the redevelopment plans proposed by WP is the creation of a Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) that would allow for an income tax imposed on employees of stores in the mall, and that would help offset renovation costs.
      A Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) is an arrangement in Ohio where one or more municipalities and a township agree to work together to develop township land for commercial or industrial purposes. The benefit to the municipality is that they get a portion of the taxes levied in the JEDD without having to annex it. The benefits to the township are that it does not lose prime development land, it can still collect property taxes as well as a portion of the income tax collected.
      To create a JEDD, a municipality and township work together to create a contract. As of this writing, Boardman Township officials would like to form the JEDD with Poland Village, The Boardman News learned.
      Renovation work proposed by WP will be the second major renovation of the Southern Park Mall.
      In 1997, the DeBartolo Corp. merged with the Simon Property Group. Shortly after the merger, Simon made $19 million in renovations at the mall.
      Boardman Township Trustees have been discussing the future of the mall with WP for about a year. They met with the Columbus-based WP firm last winter where they were given assurances the company would redevelop the mall, after the closings of two anchor tenants, Sears and Dillards.
      “The bottom line is we are working with WP to make sure that the Southern Park Mall stays relevant, including the development of more community space. We believe WP is sincere in its commitment to improve the mall,” Larry Moliterno, chairman of Boardman Township Trustees, said.
      Currently the Southern Park Mall occupies more than 1.19 million sq-ft of retail space and it is the largest shopping site in Mahoning County.
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