Boonshoft’s mall location hosts one final party before closing

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery’s location at the Upper Valley Mall closed its doors for the last time Saturday, but not before hosting one final party.

Eric Clark and Jacqueline Clark, of Yellow Springs, hosted a fourth birthday party for their son, Levi. Eric said he grew up going to the mall, and it was sad seeing another anchor leave. Losing the Boonshoft means there’s one less place locally for families to take their children.

“Over the years, watching it fade away has been difficult for me,” Eric said of the mall.

The museum drew thousands of visitors each year, and mall officials often touted the center as the kind of unusual tenant modern malls need in order to draw shoppers as the retail industry becomes increasingly competitive.

But museum officials announced they planned to close the site as foot traffic saw a significant decline in 2015.

Other major anchors like J.C. Penney and Macy’s also have closed, making it tougher for the mall to draw shoppers who may have also spent time at the museum.

Jaye Drummond and Kelly Kazlo, of Yellow Springs, brought Nicholas Drummond, 3, to the birthday party and said they were sorry to learn of the Boonshoft’s closing.

“It’s a nice place for the kids to explore and learn about science,” Drummond said.

Despite the loss of another tenant, the mall’s new owner thanked the museum and said he is committed to securing new tenants. New Upper Valley Associates purchased the site for about $2.5 million in an online auction late last year.

“The Boonshoft Museum of History has been a great source of educational and entertainment opportunities for area families and they will be missed,’ said Rao Chekka, managing partner for New Upper Valley Associates in a prepared statement.

“We understand the circumstances that led to their decision and we wish them success in future endeavors. As we move forward our focus is to reposition the mall through leasing efforts to bring both traditional and non-traditional retailers that will provide an alternative selection for our shoppers.”

Museum officials could not be reached for comment Friday. But they have said they are still considering other locations in Springfield, including the former Myers Market building at 101 S. Fountain Ave. where the museum has a lease option with the city of Springfield.

But to operate there, museum officials would need to raise about $4 million to cover the cost of renovations and set up an endowment.

“I’m sorry to see them go, and I hope they are able to open something downtown,” said John Detrick, Clark County commissioner.

Museum officials have also said it’s possible the museum could extend the least option with the city if needed, although the preference is to have the money pledged by July at the latest.

Kathy Thompson, of Springfield, brought Michael Allen, 3, to the museum and was surprised to learn Saturday was its final day open. She said it’s been tough to watch the mall struggle, and would like to see owners attract more affordable clothing stores or stores that don’t only cater to teens. She said she rarely shops at the mall.

However, she said is hopeful officials can find a way to keep the Boonshoft in Springfield if possible.

“I really hope they can,” Thompson said. “It’s really nice to have something for the kids.”

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