Wednesday, July 16, 2014


I honestly don't know what to do.

The Mall at Steamtown in Scranton fell in to foreclosure in March.  The mall couldn't pay its bills.  The mall was sold to the mortgage holder for $ 37.2 million dollars at a sheriff's sale yesterday morning in Lackawanna County court.

Department store owner Al Boscov, who fought a seven year battle to do the project way back in the 80's and early 90's says he wants his department store, a money maker to stay here.  He'll consider buying the mall if the price is right and he wants to re-fill the empty spaces-- about half the mall, and that's a conservative estimate.

I've interviewed Al Boscov dozens of times over the years.  He might be in his mid 80's but the old buck can still charm your socks off.  Yesterday was no exception.  Unfortunately charm can't pay the bills.

He's trying to save something the American consumer no longer wants-- an urban shopping mall.  Good luck.

There are a lot of suggestions to de-mall the whole thing.  Put stores at both ends, with an open air plaza, including retail in the middle.  It might work, and it would open up the view to the Steamtown National Historic Site-- something that's sorely needed.  The visitor number would skyrocket if people could actually see what's going in there, without maneuvering through a maze.  Boscov seemed to acknowledge that yesterday, but he added paperwork, deeds, loans, covenants, etc. stipulate there has to be a "mall."  Define "mall."  Sounds  like it's up to interpretation.

Scranton is ripe with rumors Lackawanna County will lease the second floor for offices.  Retail would remain on the first.  Sounds like a plan.  If there are courts in the building, defendants can stop for a soft hot pretzel on their way to jail.  Now, that's a bit extreme, but it will be interesting to see if government and retail can mix to keep a shopping center that once held so much promise from going to the grave.