SCRANTON -- The idea of Lackawanna County setting up office space at The Mall at Steamtown in Scranton is certainly creating a buzz within county government.
The Mall at Steamtown was sold to its mortgage holder in sheriff's sale Tuesday. It raised a lot of questions about what's next for the mall.
Newswatch 16 also reported Tuesday that Lackawanna County Commissioners have been in discussions with mall owners about moving county offices to the mall.
Commissioners said Wednesday moving offices to The Mall at Steamtown is only an option.
Coney Island Lunch has been a fixture on Lackawanna Avenue in Scranton for decades. Owner Peter Ventura said a lot has changed outside his window over the past 20 years, but the change having the biggest impact on his business has been the decline of The Mall at Steamtown.
"There's so much competition from all the other malls in the area, and they're equally having problems, too. But to see them [The Mall at Steamtown] come all the way back? I don't think it's possible," Ventura said.
Fellow business owners near the mall agreed that they don't believe the downtown mall will ever be the busy retail hub it used to be.
Lackawanna County's majority commissioners said the county could be the mall's new owner if the price is right. They're looking for a central location for county offices.
But, Minority Commissioner Pat O'Malley does not think The Mall at Steamtown is the answer.
"I think it's a large building. It's huge. We should be looking for a building that's more self-contained that we can be in as a building itself, not contained to anything else," Commissioner O'Malley said.
People who do shop at The Mall at Steamtown seemed open to some untraditional mall tenants, maybe even Lackawanna County, as long as it keeps some of the stores in the mall open.
Could county offices bring the foot traffic that's been missing at the mall for years?
"I think that if it generates money, then yes, it would be good for the county. As far as the people here downtown, it's going to be very vacant because how many of the people here would really use the county offices?" said Marisa Coley of Scranton.
"The county could be good because they're going to bring bodies in to the building. It's going to be, you'll have people walking around, that's basically what you want," Ventura added.
Lackawanna County's Majority Commissioners Corey O'Brien and Jim Wansacz stressed Wednesday that even though they've met with mall owners several times and looked at blueprints of what the mall might look like if they move in, The Mall at Steamtown is only an option.
Commissioners said they are considering other spaces to consolidate office space.