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Published: Wednesday, 7/15/2009

Foreclosure sought for B.G.'s Woodland Mall

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - A Washington bank has filed an $11 million foreclosure action against the owner of Bowling Green's only indoor shopping center, alleging that the mortgage hasn't been paid since February.

Woodland Mall Holdings LLC, owner of the Woodland Mall on North Main Street in Bowling Green, is named in the foreclosure action filed last week by U.S. Bank.

The lawsuit, filed in Wood County Common Pleas Court, alleges that the $8.9 million mortgage taken out in February, 2007, to purchase the 40-acre mall is in default and seeks appointment of a receiver to collect rents and manage the business until the case is resolved. The suit also seeks penalties and interest of more than $2 million.

The case asks that the mall be sold. Nothing in the filing indicates that the mall will close.

Artek Realty of New York City and Kotel Management of Wood Ridge, N.J., bought the mall in November, 2005, for an undisclosed amount from investors Ramy Eidi, Chuck Sallah, and Jim Sallah.

At the time of the sale, the 272,000-square-foot mall's current owners owned or managed more than 3 million square feet of shopping centers and related properties in Ohio and other states.

They are the fifth owners of the 22-year-old mall, where the anchors are Elder-Beerman and Dunham's Sports.

Abraham "Wolf" Retek of Artek Realty did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.

News of the foreclosure action surprised the remaining tenants of the mall, who complained about the lack of shoppers.

One of the mall's former anchors, Steve & Barry's University Sportswear, declared bankruptcy and liquidated its holdings in 2008.

"I'm barely making it here because of the traffic," said Lori Hanway, owner of A Taste of Amish Deli, a 755-square-foot storefront near Elder-Beerman that has been open for three years.

Ms. Hanway said she's worked at Woodland Mall on and off for more than 20 years, including as the owner of her own business since 2006.

The poor economy and the loss of Steve & Barry's have exacted a terrible toll on the mall, she said.

"To be honest, I was hoping it would go under so I could get out of here," Ms. Hanway said. "My lunch [sales] have been $100 lunches, and you can't live on $100 lunches."

Several years ago, the mall's previous owners attempted to fill their vacant storefronts with "nontraditional" tenants and landed the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and Broken Chain church, among others.

This year, the owners asked Wood County officials whether any public agencies needed space, county officials said.

"Considering the economy, I'm very thankful that we're doing as well as we are," said Jana Scheer, owner of Virtual PCs, which sells custom-built computers and electronic components.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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