Where does Parkway Center Mall's future lie?

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

When Kmart finally closes its doors at Parkway Center Mall this weekend, the lone retailer at the mall will be a Giant Eagle store.

That leaves the mall owner, Kossman Development Co., with a decision on what to do with the site.

Some local developers believe the future of the mall — once home to large retailers such as Phar-Mor, Zayre, CompUSA and Syms Clothing — does not rest in retail. Offices, residential buildings and a hotel are the way to go, they say.

Others say that given its central location between Pittsburgh and the south and western suburbs, retail still can be a success.

“Our final day of sales at our Parkway Center Mall Kmart is Sunday,” said Howard Riefs, director of corporate public relations for Sears Holdings.

Once Kmart departs, Kossman will close the second level, said Steve Weisbrod, Kossman vice president of business development. The first level has been closed for more than six years.

“We are currently engaged on determining the future plan for the mall site,” Weisbord said.

It could involve tearing down part or all of the mall, depending on the needs of any tenants that lease space, he said.

Another consideration is building a store for Giant Eagle and keeping the current one open during that period. Giant Eagle, early in 2012, signed a five-year extension of its lease, he said.

It may be awhile before there's any major decision on the property, Weisbord said

Herky Pollock, executive vice president of CBRE Inc., and one of the top commercial retail brokers in the region, isn't ready to let go of Parkway Center's potential.

“The closure of Kmart provides an incredible opportunity for Kossman Development. Given (the mall's) central location, dense demographics, highway access and well-known brand, it is prime for a major redevelopment,” Pollock said.

“Parkway Center could become the next premier power center in the region. With the enormous talent of Kossman Development, coupled with their years of experience in repositioning assests, I am sure they have waited patiently for this opportunity. The location is in the bustling Parkway West corridor and has the ability to attract consumers from far distances away and also (from) the city of Pittsburgh.”

“Big box tenants, mid-size tenants and free-standing restaurants would be eager to join redevelopment efforts at Parkway Center, and I am sure that the new center will be unrecognizable from what it is today.”

Pat Nardelli, a principal of Castlebrook Development, is one who thinks the mall's days as retail center are behind it.

“I believe whatever is developed there should not be retail,” said Nardelli. “Instead, the site could be used for a medical office building, for a government-supported training facility or for more restaurants to accommodate workers at the Parkway Center office complex next door.”

Jim Scalo, a partner of Burns & Scalo Real Estate Co., believes better use of the property would be in office buildings, not in retail.

“This is a wonderful site, a prime piece of property, because of its location, and perhaps a more mixed-use development should be considered, such as offices, retail and hotel,” said Dick Donley, president of Chaska Properties.

The problem with retail is that it is difficult to get financing while financing for hotels is more available, he said.

And Bill Brown, whose company, Oxford Properties LLC, is building the 272-unit Oxford City Vista apartments on a site in Green Tree that borders the mall, said a retail facility would be good for his future tenants.

Kmart, a division of Sears Holding Corp., notified the state last year it was closing the store. Since then, the few remaining tenants moved out. They were GNC, Sports Deli, 90's Nails, Minh In Stitches, the Phanthon of the Attic, Dalmo Optical and Yose Kan's Martial Arts.

“Once Kmart closes the doors to the public, they have until their lease expires Jan. 31 to sell off the fixtures,” Weisbrod said.

Parkway Center Mall was one of the region's major shopping centers when it opened in 1982.

Among its initial tenants were retailers David Weis Catalog Showroom, Zayre, E-Bee Shoes, KayBee Toys, Jo Ann Fabrics, National Record Mart, Radio Shack, Computer Central, Thrift Drug, Gold Circle and a Chi Chi's Restaurant.

Also spending some time at the mall were Minnesota Fabrics, Herman's Sporting Goods, Thom McAn shoes, Famous Footwear, Petland, King's Jewelers and Payless Shoes.

When David Weis went out of business in the early 1990s, Phar-Mor took over the space. The Zayre space was split in half and shared between CompUSA and Syms Clothing. A food court, which included Mr. Pool and Pockets Deli and Billiards, began to lose its tenants, and the space was leased to a dance studio and a Pennsylvania Drivers License Center.

The mall underwent a renovation in the late 1990s, with new lighting and carpeting and exterior painting.

But several major tenants went out of business or left, such as Phar-Mor, Syms and CompUSA.

Some visitors and tenants complained that often the mall's floors would shake.

That resulted because after the site was cleared, the developer used fill to even the area on which the mall was built. The vibrations occurred as the mall continued to settle on the fill.

Sam Spatter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7843 or sspatter@tribweb.com.

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