Economic Development

Boardman, WRPA Seek Incentives for Mall Renovations

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Washington Prime Group, owner of Southern Park Mall, has the support of the Boardman Township Board of Trustees and the Western Reserve Port Authority in seeking tax breaks to help fund the redevelopment of the mall.

Among the incentives are reduced sales tax on construction materials and establishing a program that allows Washington Prime to keep a portion of new real estate taxes generated from the newly created property value, the company says.

Washington Prime is also working with Boardman Township, Mahoning County and other local partners to put programs in place that would allow the developer to impose, for a limited time, new taxes on the mall site. 

The incentives would help offset about $6 million of the $30 million that the company expects to invest in the next few years to enhance the site as the hub of retail, dining, entertainment and recreation.

“That is a substantial economic boost,” said Jeff Barone, president of the Boardman Board of Education, at a press event Thursday. “We are a vibrant township and can be a leading example of a future mall concept.” 

In August, the developer began the demolition of the former Sears space, which will be replaced with DeBartolo Commons, an outdoor park and recreation space. The new exterior wall will be more of a plaza than traditional mall, with separate stores not connected to the rest of the mall.

“Back in 1970, this mall became the heart and soul of Boardman Township,” said John Moliterno, executive director of Western Reserve Port Authority. “We’re excited to participate in the new renovation of this facility to put some blood back into the heart and soul.”

The Boardman Local School District and Mahoning County officials have separately agreed to vote soon on separate incentives that would benefit Southern Park. The incentives will not result in new property taxes, Washington Prime reports. 

In addition, local governmental agencies, specifically including the Boardman Local School District, are not being asked to forego budgeted revenue through the proposed incentives package. Only new taxes generated from new development would be impacted and only for a limited period of time.

“There’s been a real weakening of the experience here and we need to get that fixed,” said Matthew Jurkowitz, Washington Prime’s vice president of development. “Most of the investment made has been to things you can’t see [like] new roofs, new heating, ventilation and air conditioning.” 

The demolition of the former Sears building remains on schedule, said Brian Gabbert, general manager of Southern Park. Ongoing construction is not expected to impact shoppers. Work is expected to be completed by fall for a community event celebrating the mall’s 50th anniversary. 

On average, Boardman serves more than 100,000 people daily, especially during the holidays, making it a destination in the Valley, said Jason Loree, Boardman Township administrator. A large number of those also call the township home.

“What’s happening here with the mall is reflective of what’s strong with Boardman and our community,” Loree said. “When you see major reinvestment like this in our area, it means the area is strong economically.”

The redevelopment is going to provide additional jobs and is being done in a way that takes care of greenspace, infrastructure and all of the amenities the community looks to have such as hike and bike trails and outdoor recreation, Loree said. 

“This is creating a unique area for Boardman Township, specifically Mahoning County,” he said. “This puts us on a stage with other communities that have retail. That really elevates us.”

Washington Prime will host a Coffee with the Community event Dec. 13 at Southern Park Mall from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Community members are invited to ask questions about the incentives package and share recommendations for the redevelopment project. 

Pictured: Brian Gabbert, general manager, Southern Park Mall; Jason Loree, administrator, Boardman Township; Mahoning County Commissioners Anthony Traficanti and Carol Rimedio-Righetti; Jeff Barone, Boardman Board of Education president; John Moliterno, executive director, Western Reserve Port Authority; and Matthew Jurkowitz, vice president of development, Washington Prime Group. 

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.