SCRANTON -- The company that holds the mortgage for The Mall at Steamtown in Scranton bought the property Tuesday at a sheriff's sale after it went into foreclosure.
It means, for now, it will continue operating as a mall. But Newswatch 16 learned today the property could turn into office space if Lackawanna County has its way.
The Mall at Steamtown defaulted on a $37.2 million dollar mortgage payment last summer. A former mall employee told Newswatch 16 that not long after that, Lackawanna County Commissioners started making visits to the mall's management offices equipped with a plan for the future of the mall.
"It seemed to be a forgone conclusion, there were blueprints drawn up for the county to take over the entire second floor of the mall," he said.
The former mall employee did not want to be identified.
He said he saw blueprints of the County's plan. For a retail mall on the first floor, and a government mall of sorts taking up most of the second floor.
Lackawanna County Commissioner Jim Wansacz confirmed that those blueprints were drawn up, and the meetings with mall owners were held. Whether or not the plan goes through depends on the cost to county taxpayers.
"It comes down to what we can afford and what would work," Wansacz said.
When asked if Lackawanna County would buy the mall or rent space, Wansacz said, "I think all that is up to negotiations."
Al Boscov, who is in negotiations himself to buy back The Mall at Steamtown, said there's no firm plan in place for Lackawanna County to get involved.
"It's really a big decision for them, and a big decision for us. We have to make sure that the mall will still survive. I don't think there's anything serious other than scattered rumors," Boscov said.
But Commissioner Wansacz said, if Lackawanna County gets the right price it could become reality.
Someone who was on the inside believes The Mall at Steamtown is a failing venture, Lackawanna County taxpayers should not be footing the bill for.
"The county has a less than stellar record of operating Montage Mountain, the stadium, I don't know how they are going to know how to run a mall. It's basically a bailout for a millionaire," the former mall employee said.