As anchors close, York Galleria owner mulls transformation
With the York Galleria set to lose two anchor stores in the coming months, the owner of the Springettsbury Township mall says it is in the early stages of crafting a "transformative redevelopment" plan to revive the property.
"We have been monitoring the situation with Sears and Bon-Ton very closely and have been working on contingency plans for the properties impacted," said Stacey Keating, a spokeswoman for Tennessee-based CBL Properties, which owns the mall.
She declined Friday to provide a timeline or details about what shape those plans may take. However, she said the redevelopment will encompass both the Sears and Bon-Ton spaces. Keating said the preliminary plan could dramatically change the dynamic of the property.
"We'll be excited to share more details as plans are finalized," she said. "We are optimistic about the future of York Galleria and look forward to its continued evolution."
Sears Holdings announced Thursday that it will close its store at the mall in early August. A liquidation sale is slated to begin May 18. And Bon-Ton already is holding liquidation sales at all of its stores as part of a bankruptcy liquidation.
York County officials, including Blanda Nace, a Springettsbury Township supervisor and director of strategic development for the York County Economic Alliance, said he is confident CBL will be able to reposition the Galleria following the exits of Sears and Bon-Ton.
"We started talking to CBL a year ago about creating a master plan," he said. "This (store closing news) was nothing shocking or surprising, but it is disappointing."
It also is bad timing for the Galleria for both store closings to occur now, Nace said. Still, he believes CBL can overcome the challenges because of the mall's attractive location at the intersection of U.S. Route 30 and Route 24.
"From a township perspective, it's an anchor and a destination," he said. "It's a crossroads for local shoppers."
Other companies should quickly be attracted to the location, he said. The Galleria also has been seen as possible home to a new mini-casino proposed by Penn National Gaming, though a final decision on a site could still be a few months away.
"I am sure CBL has a plan to repurpose or sell to someone who will bring new life to the site," said Chad Stine, president and CEO of Bennett Williams Realty, a commercial real estate firm. "The real estate is prime and the road infrastructure around the site is very valuable, so it will certainly not sit vacant for long."
Indeed, changes have already been happening at the mall.
A Marshall's store opened this week in space previously occupied by J.C. Penney's. The former anchor space also has attracted an H&M store as well as a Gold's Gym.
Will similar tenants want to occupy the Sears and Bon-Ton spaces?
Some mall owners nationally have razed old anchor stores and built new multi-tenant spaces. CBL, for example, has done that in other parts of the country, including Kentucky and Tennessee. Those spaces are now home to restaurants and specialty retail shops, or so-called junior anchors such as H&M.
CBL recently announced plans to redevelop a former Sears in Wisconsin. The initial plan there is to build new dining and entertainment options. CBL also said that other non-retail uses could be added.
The Capital City Mall in Lower Allen Township, Cumberland County, has gone through a similar transition following the loss of a Sears. The mall's Sears store was demolished and several smaller tenants were added as part of new construction on the site.
The West Manchester Mall, which is near the Galleria, was transformed from an enclosed mall into an open-air shopping center.
"Nationwide, there are several different models that work," Nace said. "It comes down to demographics. York County has great shopping demographics. It's about attracting the right retailers at the right time."
He also said he believes other non-retail uses could be possible at the Galleria. Creative concepts have been thrown around by firms looking to fill old anchor spaces in the midstate and across the country. Medical office and educational uses often come up, as does entertainment. Housing is another option.
"I don't think anything is off the table," Nace said.