Judge rules empty Woodville Mall must be demolished by May 2, 2014

The 778,000-square-foot Woodville Mall was built in Northwood, Ohio, in 1969 and has been closed to the public since December, 2011.
The 778,000-square-foot Woodville Mall was built in Northwood, Ohio, in 1969 and has been closed to the public since December, 2011.

BOWLING GREEN — What some consider to be an asbestos-filled eyesore may soon be wiped from the streets of Northwood.

A Wood County Common Pleas Court judge on Thursday ordered Ohio Plaza Shopping Center LLC and Woodville Mall Realty Management LLC to demolish the former Woodville Mall at 3725 Williston Rd. Attorneys for the current and former owners agreed in court that the property’s violations required abatement by demolishing the building.

“It’s a very reasonable resolution,” said Doug Wilkins, an attorney who represented former owner Woodville Mall Realty Management. “I approved it, and so did my client.”

A lawsuit filed Jan. 17 by the city of Northwood dubbed the building a public nuisance and called for the abatement of its numerous violations.

Judge Reeve Kelsey ruled that the defendants must construct a fence around the former mall by Sept. 2. In addition, the former and current owners of the building must submit a plan of abatement to the city engineer for final approval on or before Sept. 30. All unused structures must be removed on or before May 2, 2014, and all asphalt and cement slabs must be stripped from the premises by July 31, 2014.

If the defendants fail to comply with the assigned dates, the city may enter the premises and abate or foreclose the property, according to the court agreement.

Woodville, LLC was ordered to demolish the former Elder-Beerman store, which has been vacant since 2009.

The former mall has water damage, mold, and asbestos concerns, and has been closed to the public since December, 2011. The Andersons store adjacent to the facility left the premises in February because of the building's deteriorating conditions.

A filing with the Wood County auditor shows that Ohio Plaza Shopping Center bought the old mall for $800,000 on Dec. 27, 2012.

“Had the property owners done anything to abate the nuisance, I don’t think we would be in Bowling Green today,” said Councilman David Gallaher, head of Northwood’s economic development committee. “The city has gone out of their way to work with the property owners and there hasn’t been any action on their part. If a Northwood resident had a property that was in that same shape, the city would be after them too.”

According to City Administrator Robert Anderson, who called the building a “hazard” and an “eyesore,” vandalism and crime plague the facility. The area is rife with break-ins, Mr. Anderson said, and a man was charged with breaking and entering into the mall as recently as last weekend.

Cherrefe Kadri, an attorney representing Soleyman Ghalchi, owner of the Ohio Plaza Shopping Center, said her client has done the best he could to take care of the property.

“It’s not easy, and it’s not cheap and it’s not fast. He’s trying to keep [the building] in shape,” Ms. Kadri said. “Since he took possession [of the former Woodville Mall], he’s paid the real estate taxes. He’s boarded and reboarded the place when vandals get in. That building has asbestos in it, and he couldn’t get a demolition permit until his asbestos testing report came back.”

Mr. Ghalchi is considering various commercial ventures for the site once the building is destroyed, Ms. Kadri added.

The current and former owners of the building would need to pay an estimated $8,000 fee for a demolition permit from the zoning department, Mr. Anderson said. The firms also would have to secure a demolition bond with their private insurance firms, which would ensure completion of the demolition process, he added.

“[The judge’s order] is what we wanted, and I’m satisfied with it,” Mr. Anderson said. “We'll have to wait and see [if the defendants comply]. I hope the spirit of cooperation prevails.”

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