SCRANTON -- The Mall at Steamtown is heading into foreclosure. But those who run the big shopping center in downtown Scranton said it is an effort to save the place, not shut it down.
Thursday morning the mall's general manager told Newswatch 16 about the plan to foreclose since the mall has defaulted on some of its debt. Mall management thinks it's the best option to keep the mall open.
Officials with The Mall at Steamtown said it will be business as usual while the downtown Scranton mall heads into foreclosure.
But since one of its anchor stores, The Bon-Ton, pulled out back in January business as usual hasn't been good according to employees at the mall.
"There's a lot of competition here, we have four malls around our area. I think we need an Ikea here or something bigger to actually bring businesses around this area. Because if it does continue like this I think Steamtown mall will be history," said mall employee Eddie Nieves.
Mall employees like Nieves said since The Bon-Ton closed, business for the whole mall has slowed down. There's long been speculation about what new anchor store mall officials have in mind to fill the vacant spot.
General manager Clarence Banks said the mall's financial situation is one of the reasons it's taken so long to hear what the new store will be. He said the foreclosure process will allow the mall the refinance debt, similar to refinancing a mortgage on your home.
"Restructuring will give us a great opportunity to have really great competitive rates, rents and leases for our tenants. It also gives us an opportunity to attract newer tenants to this mall," Banks said.
Banks said a lot hangs on who fills the old Bon-Ton store front. He said they have a new tenant in mind but they can't announce it until the foreclosure process is done and that could be a few months.
Mall officials wouldn't say how much debt they're in. They did say defaulting on some of the debt and foreclosing was the best option to keep the mall running and get a much-needed anchor store to sign a lease.
Customers agree that announcement is the one that will really decide the mall's fate.
"I think they actually need to bring in a store that's really good otherwise this place is going to close. Nobody comes here anymore, it's not a big wow factor. All the stores are leaving," said Julia Nordone of Dickson City.
But will the foreclosure process deter new stores from coming?
The C.E.O. of Fidelity Bank Dan Santaniello doesn't think so. He thinks The Mall at Steamtown will not be handed over to the bank. The priority, Santaniello thinks, is to get mall officials back to paying the bills.
"Chances are they're not looking to go to the finish line with the foreclosure process. What they're really looking to do is restructure the overall debt and make it profitable for the property owner, which would be Boscov or one of his entities," Santaniello said.
Santaniello added he's never seen such a large entity like The Mall at Steamtown go into foreclosure before. But he thinks it could turn the mall around.
Newswatch 16 talked to some store owners inside the mall Thursday afternoon. They said before making any judgements on the mall's financial situation, they're waiting to hear from one of the owners Al Boscov himself. He's planned a meeting with all the mall's tenants for Friday morning.