The former general manager of the Woodville Mall told Northwood city officials Thursday the mall’s new owner wants to start the demolition process of the deteriorating retail structure and embark on new development at the site.
Juanita Jones said she’s representing the new owner, Soleyman Ghalchi, of Glen Cove, New York, and that he “wants to do something positive” with the mall, which has been vacant since late 2011, except for two anchor stores, Andersons and Sears.
“That mall is coming down,” she said when asked about the owner’s plans during a town hall meeting held before city council’s regular session.
Jones said she will ask the city administration for a list of the requirements needed to initiate the demolition process and will seek the required permit from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to remove asbestos. Its removal, she said, would be the first step in razing the building but she said the owner is also committed to cleaning up the parking area. One possible development could be a strip center between the Andersons location and the Sears store and Jones said she’s been in contact with local real estate developers. Another option would be to also raze the building housing the Andersons store if its condition is considered too deteriorated.
Andersons announced late last year the store would be closing by next month.
Despite Jones’ upbeat projections and her informing the crowd of residents nearly filling the council chambers she drove 12 hours from Memphis, Tenn. to relay the news, city officials said after the meeting they remain skeptical of the development plans and that a lawsuit the city filed against the present and former owners of the mall will proceed.
The city filed a lawsuit Jan. 17 against Ghalchi, who bought the mall for $800,000 in December and the seller, Mehran Kohansieh, also known as Mike Cohen. Cohen also employs Jones and she recently oversaw the demolition of another Cohen-owned mall, the Raleigh Springs mall in Memphis, according to an article in The Commercial Appeal, a Tennessee newspaper.
Two companies incorporated by Ghalchi and Kohansieh – Ohio Plaza Shopping Center and Woodville Mall Realty Management respectively – are also named in the suit, which was filed in Wood County Common Pleas Court.
The complaint is for nuisance abatement and the removal of buildings, Brian Ballenger, the city’s attorney said, adding the structure is in violation of fire regulations and health department codes.
Mayor Mark Stoner said the development ideas sounded good but “we’ve heard it before.” “I want to believe it but I’m a little skeptical,” he said.
Dave Gallaher, who chairs council’s economic development committee, said the scenario outlined by Jones, “Isn’t going to slow us (the lawsuit) down one bit. The previous owner has been less than responsive and we’re committed to making the property safe.”
Residents addressing council before Jones spoke of vandalism and problems with a retention pond that collects runoff water from the mall’s parking lot.
Bob Anderson, city administrator, told residents Toledo Edison plans to have power restored to the pond pumps by Feb. 1.
Dan Mikolajczyk, of Skagway Drive, said residents have had roof materials from the mall blown by westerly winds into their yards.
Jones acknowledged the problems and said copper pipe has already been stolen from the site. If the mall site is developed she said she plans to have a business there.
The buildings housing the Sears store and the former Elder Beerman store have separate owners.
Jones said she has permission from the owners of the Elder Beerman facility to enter it and show it to prospective developers.
Anderson said the owner would need a demolition permit from the city and would be required to post a bond before razing could start.
The bond amount would be based on the projected cost of the demolition, Ballenger said.