OLEAN — A specialist in restoring old malls to economic vibrancy has purchased the Olean Center Mall.
Mayor Bill Aiello reported Monday that Angelo Ingrassia of Rochester has bought the 44-year-old mall from its original owner, Zamias Group, for an undisclosed amount.
“Mr. Ingrassia specializes in redeveloping distressed properties and is currently working on a redevelopment plan for the site,” Aiello said. “We look forward to working together and supporting his efforts as he transforms this underutilized property located in the center of our downtown.”
Ingrassia could not be reached for comment by press time.
Aiello said the city received a lead this summer to connect Ingrassia to the mall’s owners.
“Community Development Program Coordinator Keri Kerper secured a meeting with Mr. Ingrassia and other professionals at his Irondequoit jobsite, the former Medley Centre, back in July to discuss the potential of transforming the Olean Center Mall property,” Aiello said. “As a followup, I, along with other city officials, met with Mr. Ingrassia in September to discuss the potential project and solidify my support for the change in ownership.”
Zamias Services Inc. has removed all references to the Olean site from its website. However, the Cattaraugus County Office of Real Property Services still lists Zamias as the owner of the Olean site.
As of Monday, the mall’s 14 open business tenants include two anchor stores — J.C. Penney Co. and Kohl’s, both of which are operating as stand-alones with access to the mall closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic — 10 storefronts, including one seasonal store; and one kiosk. In addition, Key Bank, at the corner of Delaware Avenue and North Union Street, is on an outparcel of the mall.
No announcement was made on the future of the existing tenants and their leases.
Many storefronts — including the anchor site previously occupied by Bon-Ton — remain vacant, some still bearing the wall coverings or other signs of previous tenants.
Ground was broken for the mall on Aug. 13, 1976, and the grand opening was held Aug. 6, 1977. It started as a 319,000-square-foot mall on a 24-acre site in downtown Olean employing nearly 1,000 people and generating more than $25 million in retail sales. Of the stores now open in the mall, two — Renna’s Pizza and Kay Jewelers — were original tenants.
In the early 1990s, the mall lost several large tenants to the then up-and-coming West End area such as the movie theater, Ponderosa and McDonald’s, while Ames — which had bought the Hills department store chain — closed up shop in the early 2000s.
J.C. Penney Co. moving to the former Ames location in 2006 was touted as the beginning of a renaissance for the mall, but the Great Recession led to the loss of several stores. Clothing retailer Steve and Barry’s closed in the summer of 2008 following the parent company’s bankruptcy filing, while Rex TV and Appliance closed in 2009 as the parent company closed its retail stores and shifted its business to ethanol production.
Occupancy took several major hits in the last three years. Clothing retailer Rue21, Seasons Bookstore & Gifts, original anchor store Bon-Ton, and the Sears Hometown Store closed between late 2017 and January 2019. Staples of malls nationwide like Subway, Piercing Pagoda and Auntie Ann’s Pretzels have also closed in recent years.
Recent weeks and months have seen other closings, including Shoe Department.
Zamias officials previously told Aiello they were planning redevelopment efforts, but those did not come to fruition. At one point, Aiello previously told the Times Herald, demolition of the former Bon-Ton anchor had been considered, but was ruled out.
The site has a tax assessment of $2.8 million, with $152,816.21 levied in property taxes between the city, Cattaraugus County, and the Olean City School District.
Despite tax rates rising consistently, property tax revenues have dropped.
In 2012, the property was assessed at $4.93 million. Twice, the property’s assessment has been dropped due tax certiorari lawsuits. In 2014, the value was lowered to $3.91 million, and it was lowered again in 2019 to $2.8 million.
INGRASSIA’S TASK is not as overwhelming in appearance as another troubled mall he recently purchased.
Skyview on the Ridge, in Irondequoit, has seen a string of closings, vacancies and ownership changes since it opened as the Irondequoit Mall in 1990. By 2008, every store had closed, with the property sitting empty for six years before Ingrassia purchased it at a sheriff’s auction for $100,000 in 2016.
Several large projects at the site are under development. Construction of a $9.5 million community center, funded primarily by a $7.25 million town bond approved by a public referendum. began in January. The vacant Sears anchor site is under redevelopment into a 73-unit senior apartment complex.
Some businesses have moved to the site, but keeping them has been a problem. Two call centers eventually opened in part of the former Macy’s space, but neither remains open.
In June, the limited liability corporation which owns the Skyview site sued United Call Center Solutions, the last of the two call centers. Missing its April and May rent payments, the lease was terminated. United Call Center Solutions officials argued that due to the New York State on Pause executive order, it would see its rents abated while the non-essential business remained closed. Originally filed in federal court, the case was moved to state court in June.
However, it was announced in September that the building would be used for a new tenant — Rochester Regional Health’s Isabella Graham Hart School of Practical Nursing.