BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – By this time next year, what used to be Sears at the Southern Park Mall in Boardman will be an entertainment district with an amphitheater, green space, bars and restaurants.
The top officials of the Columbus-based Washington Prime Group, which owns the mall, were in town Saturday for the announcement.
They talked about this new style of mall, their association with the DeBartolo-Yorks and the Cafaros’ purchase of the Dillard’s building.
“I’ve grown to love this area,” said Lou Conforti, CEO of Washington Prime.
Conforti watched Saturday as the demolition of the former Sears building began and he talked about the property’s future.
“Concerts, sporting events — you name it.”
Conforti said they’re “indifferent” about the Cafaro Company buying the now-vacant Dillard’s.
Conforti said he will demand that whatever the Cafaros do with the Dillard’s site, that it inures with the benefit of the community.
He said the two sides have not talked.
“Where there’s an opportunity to partner, we’ll be there to partner. So, excited to see what they do on that site.”
Conforti praised the DeBartolo-York family for their involvement in the project. The new development will be called DeBartolo Commons.
“They’re just the most loyal and generous family I’ve ever met,” Conforti said. “That’s evidenced by every time I see Denise, she always has some baked goods.”
Pictures of DeBartolo Commons show ample green space — open areas which Conforti said will be the future of retail.
He said it’s something the retail industry has been myopic about until now.
“This is about creating a town center, and a town center includes green space, it includes entertainment, includes local.”
Cafaro Company Spokesman Joe Bell said they’ve hired a broker and are marketing the former Dillard’s building to prospective tenants.
He said the Cafaros do not need approval from Washington Prime on what will go in the building.
Bell called the development of DeBartolo Commons “a good thing.”