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Published: Wednesday, 8/30/2006

Owners may raze parts of Woodville Mall

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Operators of the Woodville Mall are weighing demolition of portions of the complex under an option to convert the struggling retail venue into an outdoor shopping center.

But representatives emphasized yesterday that it is just one possibility being considered for the mall in suburban Northwood that has lost dozens of shops in recent years and now is mostly empty.

"We are still working" on the options, owner Sammy Kahen, a California businessman told The Blade. "It's not finalized."

Cleveland realty executive David Krone, who was hired to spearhead redevelopment of the 37-year-old property, would not say when mall operators expect to make a decision.

But he said no demolition would occur before Christmas, as some retailers feared.

Other options, he said, include renovating the mall but keeping the format unchanged while trying to attract tenants, tearing down an outdated cinema complex and replacing it with a free-standing theater elsewhere on the property, and demolition of large sections of the mall except for anchor stores Sears, Elder-Beerman, and The Andersons.

"We could tear down the theaters ... or it could be a total tear down," said Mr. Krone, of the Krone Group LLC. "But certainly we are not tearing down the mall before Christmas."

It is the area's only mall on the east side of the Maumee River. Similarly, the Southwyck Shopping Center in South Toledo is struggling with tenants and is about to undergo an overhaul. Only Westfield Franklin Park in West Toledo is thriving.

Patrons of the mall on Woodville Road about a mile or two east of I-280 said yesterday they weren't surprised to hear that large-scale changes are being considered.

"This mall is scary now," said Paul Primeaux of East Toledo. "One day I counted and there were only five people here. Half of the stores have nobody in them. You wonder how they pay their light bills."

Only about two dozen of the mall's 100 store spots are occupied.

"I've been here every day since it opened except for five weeks I spend in Tucson every year," said retiree Allen Schifford of Lake Township. "I'd hate to see it close."

Marilyn Heidebrink, a retiree from Walbridge, said she hopes the center continues to be enclosed. For older people and families with children especially, it's a great convenience not to have to trudge through wintertime cold and snow, she added.

Ron Durbin, owner of Citizens Tax Service in the mall, said he received no information from mall managers about a possible demolition.

"They're going to do whatever they're going to do whenever they're going to do it," he said.

Word that mall owners were considering partial demolition surfaced in late June in a meeting between mall representatives and Northwood officials, including administrator Pat Bacon. At that time, she said, the mall redevelopment leader laid out a plan that would have involved tearing down everything except the three anchor stores.

City officials were pleased to hear solid plans for the 800,000-square foot complex.

But the meeting was followed by two months of inaction.

"At this point, I don't know what to think," Ms. Bacon said.

Mr. Kahen and business partner Jack Kashani bought Woodville Mall for $2.5 million in 2004 from Simon Property Group, Indianapolis. They entered the Toledo retail real estate market two years earlier with the purchase for $980,000 of North Towne Square mall in Toledo, which eventually closed.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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