Harrisburg Mall owners reject Futureland

July 09. 2012 10:00AM - Last modified: July 09. 2012 10:48AM

Jim T. Ryan

The Harrisburg Mall's new ownership is interested only in a retail strategy for reviving the struggling mall -- which means there's no room for The Futureland Project, a group of entrepreneurs who wanted to use mall space to showcase the midstate's budding technology sector.

Brad Thorne, founder of Harrisburg-based gaming and marketing tech firm Prize Monkey, envisioned empty shops and kiosks at Harrisburg Mall becoming home to startups, but the mall's new owners turned down the idea. File photo.

Maryland companies Petrie Ross Ventures and St. John Properties Inc. acquired the Swatara Township mall for $9.5 million in June and said they want to bring more upscale retail to the commercial center to fill vacant spaces.

Futureland was trying to fill vacant space, too, except with tech startups that could showcase Central Pennsylvania's entrepreneurial spirit and generate a little traffic at the Paxton Street mall. Futureland's board submitted a proposal to the mall owners at the end of June.

"(Thanks) for the info but it's insufficient to move forward with your endeavor," Petrie Ross Vice Chairman Phillip Ross wrote in an email Friday to Futureland co-creator Brad Thorne. "In the meantime the incomplete (restaurant) space is scheduled for demolition and other vacant space at the mall is better suited for long term credit worthy tenants that create value from an underwriting standpoint."

Thorne, who also is co-founder of vending technology company Prize Monkey, said the rejection is unfortunate but Futureland will have to find another mall willing to host its idea.

"The good/bad news is, this economy has affected malls everywhere and we're simply looking now to find a management company that is open to accepting our offer to help," Thorne wrote in an email this morning. "Several are based in Central PA so we don't need to go far."

Thorne's company Prize Monkey has a contract with Harrisburg Mall to place two vending and gaming machines there, as well as to upgrade the mall's Wi-Fi access. That work is not affected by the Futureland decision, he said.