Niagara Gazette

January 28, 2013

Former Summit Park Mall owner says damage not as bad as reported; won't affect potential sale of building

by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Recovery from a Sunday morning flood has commenced at the former Summit Park Mall in Wheatfield.

Owner Jim Anthony, of Raleigh, N.C.-based Oberlin Plaza One, said the damage, though widespread, wasn't as costly as original estimates pegged it at.

"Loss numbers like $500,000 or $1 million might help sell newspapers, but to me, they're just not correct," he said by telephone Monday evening. "We have to replace the sprinkler system ... and we're going to clean out the mall and take up the carpets that are water logged. But that's the extent of the damage. It's really a nonissue. I hate to tear up good carpets and throw them away, but we're working with a prospective buyer and he wouldn't want them anyway."

Anthony said the company he's working with was notified of the flooding and it has no effect on the negotiations to sell the mall, which was closed – with the exception of Sears, Bon-Ton and Save-A-Lot – in 2009.

Though details about the possible sale, including what this new owner has in mind for the property, weren't available, Anthony said it's been difficult selling the property because of its size. He said the property was set to be sold in 2002 but a contract failed.

Then, 2009 brought the bankruptcy of Steve & Barry's, a major revenue loss to the mall, which spiraled Anthony to close all but the three stores on the property.

"We've been under contract a couple times, but nothing's come of it yet," he said. "It's so hard to find the right match for a property that's so big and requires so much money be put into it."

Sunday's flood was caused when three water valves near a roof hatch froze and burst following last week's deep freeze. Property manager Fred Huff said cleanup would likely take the rest of the week and wouldn't affect any of the mall's three tenants.

He said it appears someone unauthorized entered the property and left the hatch open prior to the freeze. Though nothing was reported missing from the property, Huff said it was likely an attempted theft where the person found steel pipes instead of copper and left without anything of value.

But whoever did it left without closing the hatch and the damage was done.

"There's nothing that appears to be stolen," he said. "When I originally entered the property Sunday, I checked around everywhere. They're steel pipes, not copper. So whoever did it may have broken in, seen it was a dead end and left the hatch open."

As for the functioning tenants, management at Bon-Ton refused to comment on the matter because the flooding didn't damage the store at all. Employees said the store had no issues with water pressure. Management at Sears didn't return requests for comment.