Central Ohio’s oldest mall faces demolition if it cannot be brought back up to code, owing to two years’ worth of accumulating citations and warnings by City Code Enforcement and a judge declaring it a public nuisance.
“The owner is working on improvements,” mall manager Nihal Weerasinghe told The Ohio Star. “He is committed to uplift the mall by the end of the year.”
In 2019, City Code Enforcement began issuing violations to Eastland Mall Holdings, LLC, for numerous health and safety code violations as well as zoning noncompliance. Just one of the many safety violations cited involves potholes in the parking lot numbering over 1,200. Since the company did not address any of the violations, city officials filed a case against the company. Eastland Mall Holdings, LLC, admitted to the violations in a court case in June. On June 13, 2022, Judge Stephanie Mingo deemed the historic Eastland Mall a public nuisance.
Eastland Mall Holdings, LLC, intends to clean the property up, with $258,000 spent thus far on repairs such as removing illegally dumped furniture from the grounds and doing a major upgrade on the power system. The property owner made some improvements to the exterior of the mall, such as the repainting of signs whose appearance had deteriorated. Management states that the current tenants are behind in rent, resulting in a lack of funds that has slowed down further repairs. At this time there is no estimate of how much it will cost to restore the property back into codes compliance or, alternatively, how much it would cost to demolish the property.
According to sales rep Mani Bala, Diamond Jewelers – a tenant of the mall since 2001 – some noticeable improvements have been made to the mall.
“One good thing is that the outside is pretty good compared to last year. The outside is better,” Bala said.
Eastland Preparatory Academy, which owns a building in the mall, initiated its own efforts to improve the school property.
“We have made improvements and investment into the building and we hope others will do the same,” said Courtney Harritt, spokesperson for Eastland Preparatory Academy.
Members of the community are pulling for improvements in the mall, which is a historic location in the area.
“It has made me sad over the years to watch it decline and also sad for the community for something that was once thriving to decline so much. I hope that they are able to make a go of it in some way – to either bring it back or to use the real estate in some other way to benefit the community,” longtime Columbus resident Lezlie Duncan said.
Built in 1968, Eastland Mall was the city’s first enclosed shopping center. Four major retailers anchored the store. However, over the years all four anchor stores have pulled out of the mall, which decreased customer traffic and revenue.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther sought to direct resources to revitalize the Eastland area during his State of the City address earlier this year.
“We are also setting our sights on revitalizing the Eastland area, where we will be developing a new community-driven plan like the ones we created for Linden and the Hilltop,” Ginther said.
Eastland Mall’s market value for the years 2021-2022 is set at $4,800,000, but the property is not actively for sale. It is currently unknown if there are outstanding property taxes due or if the taxes are in arrears.
The case returns to court on September 22. If the property owner does not bring these violations into compliance, the City of Columbus will make its own repairs at the owner’s expense or will potentially demolish the property. The property owner is making improvements to the mall but it remains to be seen if he can bring the mall up to code in time or if the City of Columbus will have to step in.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]