The Summit Park Mall in Wheatfield was supposed to have a sports complex by now, yet the gravel behind remains undisturbed. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
A brief history of a dead mall
When the Summit Park Mall opened in 1972, it was a big deal. The suburban shopping mall boom was in full swing, and the Summit quickly became the place to hang out.
By the 1990s, the other malls in the area had bit off whatever traffic the Summit Park Mall was receiving.
After a rebranding and renovation in the mid-2000s, “The Summit” tried to stay relevant.
The mall was shuttered in 2009 when its owner, Oberlin Plaza One, filed for bankruptcy protection. This left a Save-a-lot on the exterior remaining, as well as two anchor stores on either end of the mall: Sears and Bon-Ton.
As of press, the Sears righteously clings to life on one end of the mall, while Bon-Ton does rather swimmingly on the other side.
Attempts to reopen any of the main mall usually collapsed at the gate, and the mall began to decay. The mall was prone to vandalism. The lack of security culminated in a burst pipe that flooded the property under four inches of water in 2013.
The mall was broken into several times as the ink was drying on a new ownership, but that was trend was rapidly going to change.
In 2014, Canadian developer Zoran Cocov purchased the mall. Cocov was the kind of developer areas dream of: a guy with a serious face that when asked if he had the money for his projects said, to paraphrase, that if he didn’t have it in his pocket, he knew someone that did.
Later that year, Cocov was granted approximately $700,000 in tax breaks as part of a PILOT program. Cocov stated that he planned to turn the mall into a mixed-use facility, including a wine center.
In late 2015, Cocov announced that plans were underway to construct an inflatable dome sports complex behind the mall, and convert the majority of the mall into a sports-themed destination. The opening date of October 2016 was pushed back a year after several setbacks in the approval process. Public hearings resulted in the single dome being split into two smaller domes, and the project was finally approved.
The public hearing was a fiasco. Complaints about the idea of inflatable domes permeated town meetings from neighbors. Here’s a short list:
- The dome lights will be too bright.
- The fan keeping the dome up will be too loud.
- It’s ugly.
- It will bring teenagers.
- It will cause as much noise as a public park.
Nevertheless, the project continued.
In December 2016, a brewery project was added into the mix. Set to be located at the site of the previously mentioned Save-a-lot, the Big Thunder Brewing Company is expected to create about 50 jobs, and received a $750,000 grant from the county.
A Justified Stall
It came out in August that Cocov had decided against the inflatable domes, and was now seeking to construct a permanent steel structure.
Of course, this change in plans came with a heavy price.
With project completion set back to square one, it would be easy to write off the Summit Park Mall as forever dead.
What Cocov did by changing his plan, however, notes that he might care more about the project than people give him credit for.
Not only does Cocov have to go through the zoning, hearing, and approval processes all over again, he had to forfeit all of the tax breaks relating to the sports domes. While he keeps the original PILOT program, he’s losing over $1 million in tax breaks, which he will now have to reapply for.
The steel structure costs significantly more than its inflatable counterpart. This is going to cost Cocov money, but he’s addressing those concerns mentioned earlier. The lights are gone, along with the fan. The steel will hold back crowd noise, and provide extra durability to the structure.
So, the project is still happening, but this time it’s happening right.
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