BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Community members had the chance to share their thoughts and concerns about changes coming to the Southern Park Mall during a public meeting on Friday.
During the forum, Southern Park Mall general manager Brian Gabbert met with about 30 people in the resting area in front of H&M around 11:30 a.m.
A WKBN reporter was allowed to attend the forum after media members were previously told they would be asked to leave if they tried to come.
The purpose of the meeting was for community members to share their thoughts on the Southern Park Mall redevelopment project — a project that may be partially paid out of employees’ pockets.
A few community members questioned the proposal for new employees to pay an income tax that would help fund the project.
Mall representatives said they could not comment on this, but asked them to write down their concerns with their contact information.
One community member asked how they plan to address flooding issues in the new space.
Gabbert said a space by Cinemark Tinseltown will be set aside for a retention pond, which will help alleviate what the mall contributes to flooding in Boardman.
When asked about plans for the outdoor facility in the colder months, Gabbert said there will be seasonal activities such as pumpkin patches and Christmas tree picking.
They said there might be some fees for activities in the new space, such as skate rentals, but details on these fees were not stated.
Another attendee asked if there were plans to have equipment such as walkers available for elderly people who walk in the mall. Gabbert said it’s something they’ve considered, but the biggest issue is finding space to keep the equipment.
Someone also suggested bringing a big box store to the mall that offers groceries, apparel and other options found in a one-stop shop.
Mall representatives also touched on renovations planned throughout the complex, particularly lighting, flooring, soft seating and restrooms.
A representative of Washington Prime Group previously said members of the media who tried to attend the meeting would be asked to leave.
The company later allowed members of the media at the meeting after management at WKBN questioned why we weren’t allowed access.
The company said a reporter could come and take notes, but the reporter was not allowed to conduct interviews there or take video.
The total cost of the redevelopment is $30 million. Washington Prime is hoping to recoup $6 million through a combination of tax incentive packages.
Among plans being considered is to create a JEDD (Joint Economic Development District), which would collect income tax through a partnering community. Along with Boardman Township and the mall, that community would also benefit from the tax.
Youngstown, Struthers, Campbell and Girard are among the communities being considered as a potential partner.
A previous news release from Southern Park Mall owner Washington Prime Group said they’re looking for “support from local government partners to offset costs associated with non-revenue-generating investments.”
Washington Prime Group is planning on turning the area that used to be Sears into an entertainment district with an amphitheater, green space, bars and restaurants.