Cafaro Entity Buys Dillard’s Building for $8.92M

BOARDMAN, Ohio – A newly formed entity whose address is the same as the Cafaro Co. headquarters in Niles purchased the building that houses the Dillard’s department store at the Southern Park Mall on the same day that it was announced the store would close in May.

The sale price for the building was $8.92 million, according to the Mahoning County auditor’s office. The buyer is Boardman SC LLC, which lists its address as 5577 Youngstown Warren Road in Niles – the Cafaro building. The transaction closed Feb. 13.

Also purchased Feb. 13 was property on California Avenue, which is directly south of the mall, and 120,000 square feet of asphalt pavement.

The seller is Higbee West Main LP, a Chesterfield, Mo.-based company incorporated in 2010 that operates as a subsidiary of Dillard’s Inc., according to Bloomberg.

Boardman SC LLC was incorporated Aug. 23, 2018, by Michael J. Wright, an attorney with the Cafaro Co., according to documents on file with the Ohio secretary of state.

A further check of property records shows that the remainder of the Southern Park Mall has not been sold. It continues to be owned by Southern Park Mall LLC of Indianapolis.

The mall itself is valued at nearly $41.5 million, according to public records, and pays annual property taxes of $1.43 million.

Joe Bell, spokesman for the Cafaro Co., said his company learned “some time ago that Dillard’s intended to close its Southern Park Mall location, so we inquired and saw this as an opportunity to take over that space with the intention of perhaps re-energizing that part of the mall.”

As for what form repurposing the retail space might take, Bell said, “It’s way too early in the game. That’s a big space. Typically whenever you try to redevelop a large space, it can take many months, maybe years to negotiate the type of deal that would make the space useful and profitable.”

On Wednesday, Dillard’s Inc., Arizona, announced it would be closing its store at the Southern Park Mall no later than May 14. It was the only closing the company announced that day. Dillard’s operates 14 locations in Ohio, including the Southern Park Mall store, and a total of 265 department stores and 27 clearance centers in 29 states.

The Dillard’s clearance center in the Cafaro-owned Eastwood Mall in Niles would remain open, the company noted.

The following day Washington Prime Group, the Columbus-based management company of Southern Park Mall, released a statement saying it was working in conjunction with Dillard’s to provide services to some 120 full- and part-time employees there.

In a release, Washington Prime Group stated efforts will include a job fair, career counseling, a dedicated workspace, civic and educational involvement, discounts to fashion, food and beverages, and free events and activities. A representative for Washington Prime said the company is “working with all stakeholders to plan a job fair” and the other services at the mall, and will have more details soon.

Lou Conforti, CEO and director of Washington Prime Group, said the services would be open to Dillard’s associates as well as the residents of the Youngstown metro area.

“Southern Park Mall and Washington Prime Group highly value the relationship with our guests and shame on us if we don’t serve our local friends and family in good times and bad,” he said in the release.

As for the Cafaro Co.’s role in the closing, Bell agrees the situation is “unusual,” he says.

“We think in the long run this will be something good for our company and the community as well. We don’t want the space to sit empty.”

— Jeremy Lydic contributed to this story.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.