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  WPG Says Southern Park’s $30 Million Improvements, 50th Anniversary Delayed Until 2021 Due To Pandemic  
  New Lifestyle Tenants Will Include Golf Entertainment Center:   September 3, 2020 Edition  
     BY JOHN A. DARNELL JR.
      associate editor
      The Columbus, Ohio-based Washington Prime Group (WPG) has announced a delay in the final construction of DeBartolo Commons at the Southern Park Mall, and as well, made formal announcement of new tenants and capital improvements at the enclosed shopping complex.
      “I want to keep everybody posted about DeBartolo Commons, our athletic and entertainment venue. While we’ve lost a few months when the wretched coronavirus reared its ugly head, we’re back on track,” said Lou Conforti, CEO and director of WPG. Until the pandemic struck in mid-March, WPG had planned to complete DeBartolo Commons by the fall of this year.”
      DeBartolo Commons is now scheduled to open in 2021.
      “Due to the WPG’s focus on the health and safety of its guests, retailers, employees and community partners during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, WPG’s community event celebrating the grand opening of DeBartolo Commons as well as Southern Park’s 50th anniversary, originally scheduled for late 2020, will be postponed to 2021. Details will be announced as circumstances stabilize and return to normal,” Conforti said.
      The DeBartolo Commons, as well as other capital projects at Southern Park are part of an overall plan to pour more than $30 million into improvements and upgrades into the mall, that will be reshaped into a shopping, as well as community entertainment venue.
      “WPG remains committed to executing a first class redevelopment project,” Conforti said.
      Leasing and Development Initiatives
      WPG has executed a lease with Planet Fitness to relocate its existing Boardman neighborhood gym and open a new 28,000 sq-ft location at the Southern Park Mall that will occupy existing space between JCPenney and Buffalo Wild Wings.
      WPG has executed an agreement with Macy’s whereby Macy’s will renovate their store (a project said to cost about $2 million) and extend the term of their lease.
      WPG has executed an agreement with PNC Bank and PNC will renovate their existing location at Southern Park and extend the term of their lease.
      JCPenney has expressed its intention to remain a key tenant at Southern Park Mall.
      WPG has executed a lease for an indoor golf entertainment center. The facility, that will be called The Bunker, will occupy a new 36,000 sq-ft space and will include multiple dining and bar areas as well as an outdoor patio overlooking DeBartolo Commons;
      WPG said The Bunker’s attached restaurant will be called Bogey’s, and will be operated by the owners of the existing Bogey’s Restaurant in nearby Lowellville; and
      The Bunker will include the Ben Curtis Golf Academy, a full service learning and teaching academy run by 2003 British Open Champion Ben Curtis. Owner and operator of The Bunker will be Boardman native Jonah Karzmer, former golf pro at Tee Up driving range on Southern Blvd. While attending Kent State University, Karzmer was a former Golden Flashes teammate of Curtis on a team that qualified for the national championships. He served a brief term as golf pro at the then Fonderlac Country Club, and later won the club championship at the Lake Club four straight years. A 1999 graduate of Boardman High School and All-Ohio prep golfer, Karzmer is a 2015 inductee into the Boardman High School Hall of Fame.
      “As a lifelong valley golfer, I am very excited to help bring this needed indoor golf facility to our area. With a total of twelve golf simulators and an entire learning center run by a dedicated PGA professional and overseen by major champion Ben Curtis, I am confident this center will be a great facility for our local golf community. From scratch golfers to beginners, from serious league players to those ‘Top Golf’ entertainment seekers, our simulators and learning center will have something for everyone,” Karzmer said.
      The Bunker will partner with the Ben Curtis Golf Academy to offer an indoor golf academy and learning center. The facility will include driving range options with two dedicated launch monitors and golf simulators, a putting green, a dedicated short game area, and a fully integrated classroom for group and individual lessons as well as study opportunities.
      Curtis, a four-time PGA tour winner and member of the winning 2008 United States Ryder Cup Team, is founder of the Ben Curtis Family Foundation and the Ben Curtis Golf Academy. “The opportunity to expand our reach into the golf-rich Mahoning Valley is very exciting. Jonah and I have talked for a long time now about the need to help provide a teaching platform to help grow the game, especially for junior golfers. This center should be a great place for that and more,” Curtis said.
      The planned capital improvement initiatives will build upon previously announced redevelopment activities including---
      The demolition of the former Sears is complete and construction is underway for DeBartolo Commons, a four-acre, outdoor athletic and entertainment green space and event venue. The mall redevelopment project’s centerpiece is named in honor of, and will serve to commemorate the legacy of Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. and the DeBartolo York family. Mr. DeBartolo was a pioneer in the construction of shopping malls in America.
      Steel Valley Brew Works, a local brew and entertainment venue, will sit next to The Bunker and Bogey’s, and will also overlook and connect to DeBartolo Commons. It will feature indoor bocce courts, billiards, pinball, foosball, and other leisure games, providing guests an experience that can’t be found elsewhere in the area. In addition, Steel Valley Brew Works plans to periodically partner with food truck operators to bring the best local food trucks to its Southern Park Mall location.
      “As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve grown to love all things Boardman as well as Greater Youngstown and we’ve promised great things at Southern Park Mall. Well, say hello to our new entertainment and fitness tenants, The Bunker, Bogey’s and Planet Fitness. In addition, we’re excited Macy’s has agreed to renovate their store and extend their lease, as has PNC Bank and, last but certainly not least, JC Penney has expressed its intention to remain,” Conforti said.
      “Josh Langenheim, owner of Steel Valley Brew Works, is one of the most energetic human beings I’ve ever met and is as loyal a Youngstowner you’ll ever meet,” Conforti said.
      “Everybody who calls this area their home deserves only the best in dining, entertainment, merchandise and fitness offerings and I’m really pumped we’re going to deliver,” he added.
      $8 Million Invested To Date
      To date, WPG has invested about $8 million into capital improvements at Southern Park.Improvements made at Southern Park Mall are expected to provide numerous benefits to the Boardman community, including--
       •A first class retail and entertainment hub that will attract businesses and solidify and expand jobs at Southern Park Mall;
       •Expanded real estate property, sales and income tax bases for the benefit of local governments and taxpayers;
       •A first class greenspace – DeBartolo Commons – built to host outdoor entertainment, sporting and other public events and activities throughout the year;
       •A hike and bike path across the Southern Park Mall property that connects DeBartolo Commons to Boardman Park and eventually most residential neighborhoods south of 224, both east and west of Market St.; and
       •Major new storm water facilities on the Southern Park Mall property that will relieve the potential for flooding downstream in Boardman Township south of the mall property.
      Most Important Asset
      The Southern Park Mall is Boardman Township’s largest source of property taxes, generating an annual tax revenue of some $1.719 million. The mall property, including WPG and Cafaro Corp. interests, is valued at some $51 million.
 
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