DeBartolo Commons Is Community Centerpiece, Example for Other Malls
BOARDMAN, Ohio – The new DeBartolo Commons at Southern Park Mall was designed as a place for the community to gather for festivals, recreation and nightlife.
On another level, it’s also a prototype for the reinvention of the American mall. Once the business districts of suburbia, malls across the country are struggling for relevance amid the rise of online shopping.
Located on the south end of Southern Park Mall, DeBartolo Commons will have its grand opening Saturday, capping more than two years of construction. It’s part of several major improvements of the mall that will total $30 million when complete.
The Commons is in the space where the mall’s Sears store once was. That space was demolished to make room for the project.
The new tenants, The Bunker indoor golf center and Double Bogey’s restaurant, and Steel Valley Brew Works, will not open this weekend. Both places are built but supply chain issues have delayed the arrival of their kitchen equipment and other items. Both expect to open within weeks, but neither has set a date.
A third commercial space remains under construction. Brian Gabbert, manager of the mall, says an announcement as to its future is expected soon.
What will open Saturday is the outdoor section of DeBartolo Commons, which consists of a not-quite full-size soccer field, a festival area, stage, and a hike and bike trail that circles mall property and is expected to eventually be connected to Boardman Park.
It’s a lighted and landscaped four-acre green space with bathrooms. In a few weeks, an ice skating rink will be also be installed there that will also offer skate rental for a nominal fee, Gabbert said. The rink will remain open until January.
DeBartolo Commons, named for the prominent Valley family that built the mall and operated it for years, transforms an underused parking lot into a focal point of the community.
A place for families to gather, it’s also part of the reinvigoration and reinvention of both Southern Park and the roughly 100 other malls nationwide owned and operated by Washington Prime Group.
Gabbert said it’s something of a prototype that the company is watching with hopes of creating similar areas at its other malls.
“As times change, you have to change with the times,” Gabbert said. “As people shop online more, we’re forced to reinvent ourselves. That’s what we’ve done. We’ve created something that you can’t do online.”
The idea from the initial planning stages was for DeBartolo Commons to become the center of community life. The mall’s location at the corner of U.S. Route 224 and Market Street lends itself to such a use, Gabbert said.
“It’s a great location, at the corner of Main Street and Main Street in Boardman and we wanted to figure out the best thing to do to utilize the space for the community to enjoy,” Gabbert said. “The answer was for it to be something experiential to bring the family to. It’s a soccer field and so much more. There’s an area for a stage. We will have concerts and outdoor yoga classes, and we’ll work with mall tenants to bring things here.”
Steel Valley Brew Works is already planning a kickball league on the soccer field.
“There is a lot planned and much that haven’t even thought of yet,” Gabbert said. “The potential is exciting.”
Boardman Local Schools is planning to use the soccer field for practices, and talks are under way with the Mahoning Valley Soccer Club to also use the field, Gabbert said.
The soccer field features a soft but durable artificial turf.
A natural grass area immediately to the east of the field will be used for festival. An infrastructure that includes water and electrical hookups for food trucks has been built into the site, and the annual Ribs N Rock Festival will move to it next June. In the past, the festival took place in the mall’s west parking lot.
While the park-like outdoor area is impressive, the indoor part of DeBartolo Commons will bring entertainment and sports facilities on a scale the Valley has never seen.
The Bunker and its restaurant, Double Bogey’s, is a $3 million project that features 10 golf simulators that cost $40,000 apiece, says owner Jonah Karzmer.
There is also a practice room with a putting area, driving range and short game area. The public will be able to reserve time on the bunker’s website.
“We felt an indoor facility was needed to grow the game of golf in this area,” Karzmer said.
The Bunker will have its own in-house golf pro and an assistant pro, who will both be available for clinics and private lessons.
It’s also affiliated with the Ben Curtis Academy, and instructors from that golf school will also be available for instruction.
“There is a nice amount of options, including introductory lessons,” Karzmer said.
Senior and adult leagues will be set up. The facility will also have a private membership component.
The Bunker also has a clubhouse room, private simulator rooms, a rental room, dining areas and a bar.
Handling the food and drink end will be Melvin McKee and Carmen Lofaro, the owners of Bogey’s Restaurant, near Campbell.
Double Bogey’s – so-named because it’s the restaurant’s second location – will be open seven days a week. It will also feature an enormous patio that will have a bar, small stage and gas-lit fire pits for chilly nights.
Next to The Bunker is Steel Valley Brew Works, a similarly massive entertainment complex. It will feature bocce courts, pool tables, and a pinball room. The bar in the 12,000-square foot room will offer a large selection of local craft beers, as well as specialty coffees and baked goods.
Steel Valley Brew Works is owned by Joshua Langenheim, who owns Stone Fruit Coffee, a Valley-based coffee roaster and chain of shops.
The centerpiece of SVBW will be a massive coffee roaster, which Gabbert said is the largest in the state. Standing 10 feet tall, the fully operational roaster will be inside a glass enclosure so that guests can watch it in action.
The final touch of DeBartolo Commons has already been seen by thousands.
A sign that reads, “You Can’t Break a City Made of Steel” has been painted along the side wall and is visible from Market Street.
Local artist Pat McClone painted the sign. Earlier this year, McClone painted a smaller mural on the other side of the mall that reads “Yohio.”
Saturday’s grand opening festivities for DeBartolo Commons will run from noon to 8 p.m.
The public can enjoy free outdoor activities for the entire family, including live music, a petting zoo and pony rides.
The celebration will open with a performance by the Boardman High School marching band. The event will include:
• Bounce houses and yard games, Boardman police and fire department meet and greets and Touch A Truck, rock wall climbing, a selfie station provided by The Selfie Space, and Shelby’s Sugar Shop and Youngstown Clothing Co. pop-up shops
• Stilt walkers and bubble artists, and complimentary train rides provided by All Smiles Aboard! from noon to 5 p.m.
• Pony rides and a petting zoo, face painting and strolling princesses and superheroes from noon to 4 p.m.
• Pumpkin painting led by Southern Park Mall’s The Art Café beginning at 1 p.m. for the first 100 children
• Caricature artist from 2 to 6 p.m.
Musical act The Syndicate will take the stage from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and 80s Proof will conclude the evening, performing from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Throughout the day, food and beverages will be available for purchase from a variety of food trucks, including DeChellis Concessions, Le Macaron, Molnar’s Concessions, OH Donut, Ye Olde Kettle Corn and more.
The Beer Garden opens at 4:30 p.m. and guests ages 21 and over can choose from a variety of beers, wine and seltzers to purchase. All proceeds from the sale of alcohol will benefit The Sojourner House Domestic Violence Program.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.