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Sears comes down at Southern Park Mall

BOARDMAN — Lou Conforti, CEO of Washington Prime Group, stood in front of a large crowd Saturday at the annual Boardman Township Community Day and talked about the Mahoning Valley and future of the Southern Park Mall.

The mall, which opened in 1970, was built by the Edward J. DeBartolo Corp.

“This community is about family. It’s about loyalty and we’ve seen that evidenced by the DeBartolo and York family, who I’ve gotten to know, and they’re unbelievable,” Conforti said. “We thought it only fitting that we’re going to have an amazing entertainment and athletic venue.”

That venue will replace the former Sears department store. Demolition of the building began Saturday.

The 4-acre DeBartolo Commons will include “an athletic and entertainment green space and event venue,” according to Washington Prime Group, which is partnering with the Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. to develop the project.

“Boardman Township has done this community day for a number of years now as a way to come in and just recognize the work of our police department, our fire department, our road department, all the things that we do and just celebrate living in Boardman Township,” said Larry Moliterno, Boardman trustee chairman. “It’s just extra special this year because we can tie it in with the announcement that the folks from Washington Prime are going to make about the Southern Park Mall.”

According to Washington Prime Group, the area adjacent to DeBartolo Commons “will feature a new entertainment hub” that will include “a new 37,000-square-foot indoor golf entertainment center and accompanying restaurant; a new entertainment venue featuring interesting food and beverage options combined with fun leisure activities; and additional new dining options.”

Washington Prime Group has built similar developments throughout the United States, including the Polaris Fashion Place in Columbus.

“Our plan here has been three-and-a-half years in the making,” Matt Jurkowitz, vice president of development at Washington Prime Group, said. “So this green space, four acres — that’s a pretty substantial amount of space. This is going to host a lot of concerts. This is going to host a lot of events.

“It will have little league games for soccer and maybe some pee-wee football. We will have field turf out here on a substantial amount of this so that it tolerates a lot of traffic and … repeated events over the course of the hot summer months,” he said.

Jurkowitz added, “You know, I think what we’re doing here is really creating a new town center. I mean that’s what this is all about. It’s to create a place that is more reflective of today’s marketplace.”

Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge R. Scott Krichbaum also attended. He said his son works for Washington Prime and believes “they’re going to pull this off. This is going to be the greatest thing,” he said.

“DeBartolos are dear friends. Eddie and I communicate regularly and Denise and I and her husband, John, and I are friends,” said Krichbaum. “They’re a great family. They’re involved in this as they always are. They’re very generous and very community-minded and they should be applauded for their effort also.”

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