New district could help mall save energy

By Burton Speakman


An energy-improvement district could be created that would allow Southern Park Mall to become more efficient.

The Western Reserve Port Authority is working with Simon Properties, which owns the mall, to create an Energy Special Improvement District or ESID.

If the district is created, Boardman Township would have the authority to issue Property Assessed Clean Energy — PACE — bonds that could finance mall improvements.

If the district is approved, Simon Properties would pay for the bonds through a special assessment on its property taxes, said Rose Ann DeLeon, port authority executive director. The assessment would be in addition to the typical property tax paid for the mall.

The company has not decided on any type of improvements, but could improve windows or heating.

Ohio allowed PACE bonds in 2009, DeLeon said. When these special districts are created, the low-interest bonds permit companies to make improvements with low or no upfront costs and spreads out the collection over 30 years. The tax obligation would go to the next owner if the mall is sold.

The WRPA board voted in May to retain the bond counsel that is necessary to prepare the documentation that would create the district. The paperwork would then be provided to the township trustees, who would have to approve the district, DeLeon said.

“As we’re taking care of the paperwork for the township, Southern Park Mall is undergoing an energy audit to see what its potential energy savings are,” she said.

Simon Properties would then be able to determine if the PACE bond is the best way to pay for energy improvements, DeLeon said.

This PACE bond could help the mall to hold down rent, which would then help businesses charge consumers lower prices, said Sarah Lown from the WRPA. The program also can help contribute to the county’s energy independence.

Lown noted that the financing may be used for a variety of energy-related improvements including the installation of solar panels or geothermal systems.

“PACE isn’t just a win-win program,” she said. “The low-cost financing it provides enables a company like Simon to save money on the front end and to save money over decades because its energy costs are lower.”

Simon representatives were not available to comment.

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