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Tri-County Mall tenants fear worst as closure date nears

‘No one knows what’s going to happen.’
Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 6:27 PM EDT
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SPRINGDALE, Ohio (WXIX) - Four months after plans surfaced for the redevelopment of Tri-County Mall, demolition work is expected to begin soon.

The project is proceeding with unusual momentum for something of its scope and potential impact. But as that momentum surges forward, many of the mall’s remaining tenants face an uncertain future, being forced to relocate within a retail environment that’s also taking cues from the developers’ sudden injection of $1 billion into the project.

“We were a little bit disappointed when they said they wanted to fully close the mall,” said Emad Awad, who manages Vengeance at Tri-County Mall.

Vengeance has been given until May 1 to move out of the mall. Many other stores have been given similar deadlines.

Texas co-developers MarketSpace Capital and Park Harbor Capital expect most tenants to vacate by May 15, but some tenants will remain. Those include BJs, Mi Cozumel, Nail Perfection, Rainbow Apparel, Eyebrows, Champs Sports, Body Jewel, American Tower, Open Box.

Exterior tenants will also continue to operate: Starbucks, Chipotle, Outback Steakhouse and Men’s Warehouse.

It isn’t clear for how long these businesses will be kept open as work on the project proceeds along a ten-year, five-phase timeline.

For Awad, the timeline is just weeks-long, though the developers have promised some flexibility.

“I don’t think most of the stores will make it out,” Awad said. “So family-owned businesses, they will shut down.”

Developers say they are working with Springdale’s Office of Economic Development to provide “direction and support to those wanting to reestablish their business in the area.”

Awad has looked at rents and has his doubts. He says plazas are doubling their rents in anticipation of increased demand for retail space, and the spaces are often much smaller than those in the mall.

“They know the mall will close, and 40 stores will follow, and the rent is too high for that,” he said.

The developers say retailers interested in being part of the new development can reach out to them, but again, Awad has his doubts.

“They said after three years, some people can come in to the mall, but they didn’t give us details on the rent or any other details,” he said. “They said after three years you may come back, but there’s going to be new management, new rent, and in three years, no one knows what’s going to happen.”

Tri-County Mall opened in 1960 amid a wave of suburbanization. By the mid-'90s, an...
Tri-County Mall opened in 1960 amid a wave of suburbanization. By the mid-'90s, an oversaturated retail environment had initiated the mall's slow decline. Macy's was the last anchor tenant to shutter last year.(Provided)

Ownership of the mall officially passed over to developers on March 8. The total purchase price was $37 million across parcels comprising the mall itself as well as the former Macy’s and Sears locations.

The developers’ concept plan won speedy approval through Springdale City Council last December. It calls for 2,600 residential units across 20 buildings on the 76.5-acre site. The buildings can have a maximum height of ten stories.

Another 39 buildings will contain space for retail, offices, bars and restaurants, entertainment offerings, recreation facilities, fitness centers, hotels and more. Fifteen acres will be devoted to green space. One of the restaurants, according to the developers, will be dog-friendly.

Current garages totaling 3,100 combined parking spaces will be preserved. Additional surface and structured parking could be part of the development as well.

Princeton City Schools will be represented on-site with a 120,000-sq.-ft. STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) Institute that Superintendent Tom Burton called “transformational.”

Phase one is scheduled to begin later this year and will include an initial 450 multifamily housing apartments as well as retail space, restaurants, recreational space, a fitness center, a park and walking and cycling trails.

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