ELYRIA, Ohio — Long anticipated revitalization efforts in Elyria could be inching forward. This week, leaders there pre-approved a funding source to purchase and eventually redevelop the Midway Mall.
“I can tell you that when I’m out in the community probably the first question is, ‘What are you doing about jobs?’ And the second question is, ‘Can you do something to help the Midway Mall?’” said Lorain County Commissioner Matt Lundy.
At Tuesday’s Lorain County Commission meeting, commissioners voted 2-1 to pre-approve a $13.9 million loan from its general fund to the Lorain Port Authority so it can purchase the Midway Mall property.
“[It’s] to say to the sellers in good faith, ‘Here, we have a pre-approval from the commissioners. We just need to finish up our research. Please give us time to do it,’” Lundy explained.
The mall has been declining in recent years, as customers left for online and competing shopping centers and retail shops vacated the property.
“It just got bad over there. You could see nobody was walking into the mall,” recalled Eric Balmert, the owner of B’s Mobile Integrations.
The car stereo and accessories store relocated from the perimeter of the mall about 8 months ago after nearly 8 years as a tenant. It was one of the last remaining retailers there.
“I expected to be able to blow up with that mall and that mall just died out. And we didn’t get as big as I thought we would,” Balmert said. “It’s sad to say, but we were kind of an anchor there for a while. And we’re not an anchor store.”
He recalled the revolving door of property owners and plans reimagining the shopping experience. Most never panned out. Balmert said some would solicit suggestions from tenants and surrounding businesses, but most never acted on the feedback.
“You start looking at each other, like, ‘Ok what’s going to happen here?’ One hand over to the next over to the next… and it’s like, ‘Ok what’s this next company going to do? Is it going to just go ahead and kill it and sell it for scrap or what?’ You worry about it,” he said.
In 2016, the lost revenue at the mall prompted the city of Elyria to commission a study to attract a developer to revitalize the struggling property.
In spring 2022, city leaders backed a plan to move away from retail. It proposed transforming the 700,000 square foot space into a health and light industrial park.
Currently, different sections of the mall are under different ownership. County leaders said the plan was among the first to get everyone on the same page, which has been a challenge in prior years.
Balmert and some other long-time residents would like to see the mall restored to its former purpose.
“I’d like to see it as a mall again. And I know malls are dying all over the nation, but I think it would work if it was planned correctly and they actually listened to people,” he said.
Area leaders agree with the business owner that the property, positioned near Route 57, I-90 and the Ohio Turnpike has high potential. They also say investment in the mall would be good for the surrounding area and its economy.
“Any time you have something that is declining, you want to rejuvenate it so there’s a tax base there, so you generate tax revenue for the community and for the county as well,” said Commissioner Lundy. “That building has very good bones and it could easily be adapted for other purposes.”
Balmert added, “I think there’s a lot of things they could do with that area and I would like to see it in good use. I really would.”
Plans for redevelopment are not set yet. The Lorain Port Authority is conducting environmental studies and other research before it plans to purchase the property.
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