Clark County officials are still exploring options for redeveloping the Upper Valley Mall site. /Staff
Photo: Jeff Guerini
Photo: Jeff Guerini

Negotiations over future of mall ongoing

Clark County officials remain in negotiations with a private developer under a plan that could provide new investment at the Upper Valley Mall site.

Earlier this month, the Clark County Land Reutilization Corp. purchased 40 acres at the Upper Valley Mall for slightly more than $3 million, an early step in a plan to breathe fresh life into the property, according to county officials. Local officials declined to provide many details about the mall’s future until a deal is finalized, but Tom Hale, executive director for the Clark County Land Re-utilization Corp., said the land bank is working with a private developer and could transfer the property within 60 to 90 days once a tentative agreement is reached.

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“We have not signed an agreement but we are in negotiations,” said Hale.

He said county officials were initially working with the developer for a separate project. The developer was aware the county had previously purchased the vacant property at the mall previously owned by Macy’s and a potential agreement evolved from there.

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“This has been going on for 10 or 11 months,” Hale said of discussions with the unnamed developer.

The mall has been the center of retail in Clark County for much of its history after it first opened in 1971. But the site has faced a challenging retail landscape and watched as longtime anchors like J.C. Penney and Macy’s have closed their doors in recent years. Other longtime tenants like MC Sports and the Upper Valley Mall Cinema 5 location have also closed in recent years.

Officials at the Chamber of Greater Springfield had previously suggested the property could eventually be an ideal site for a proposed youth sports complex. But Hale said the idea to use the mall for that proposed project was never set in stone.

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Hale said ongoing negotiations are focused on issues like a potential sale price and what any future plans for the property might look like. The Clark County commissioners voted last month to guarantee a $3.5 million loan to allow the land bank to purchase the property. The land bank could transfer the property within 60 to 90 days once a tentative agreement is reached.

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“There’s been a concern for quite some time, certainly from the local government side on what’s going to go on out there,” Hale said of the future of the mall property. “We’re moving in the right direction, we just need to keep moving that way.”

George Degenhart, planning and zoning director for German Twp. also said he could provide few details about the property’s future at this point. But he said any plan to revitalize the roughly 40-acre property is good news for the township.

The mall has struggled, but he said Clark County may be a step ahead of other communities that are facing similar issues in a challenging retail market. That’s in part because the county has worked to find possible solutions, he said.

“I firmly we’ve hit the bottom and this is an example of we’re on our way up,” Degenhart said.

Degenhart said the county stepped up at a time when few other options were available.

“Certainly here at the township level we do not have the resources to pull that off,” Degenhart said of the property purchase. “Between everybody at the county level this is I think a very good thing. Only time will tell how good it’s going to be, but they stepped up and we are appreciative of that.”