Mall changes

Maurice’s closing, but officials hopeful for future

A women’s clothing chain in the Tiffin Mall has announced plans to close later this month.

According to a spokeswoman for Maurices, 870 W. Market St., Ste. 30, the store’s last day is to be Sept. 23.

Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. President and CEO David Zak said the mall still has a real estate agency, a dance studio, a church, a Mexican restaurant and a tattoo shop. He also said other businesses are part of the complex, including Jimmy John’s, AT&T and Cinemark.

Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz said the closing of Maurices is a done deal, but he said city administration and SIEDC personnel are working with mall owners to plan future development of the site.

Last September, SIEDC announced Key Hotel and Property Management, a Toledo-based real estate development and management company, was to purchase the mall for $2.2 million from Tiffin Mall Realty.

SIEDC Development Coordinator Bryce Riggs said SIEDC typically has weekly contact with KHPM to help set the stage for future development.

Montz said mall ownership is negotiating with several companies, some involving retail, to locate in the mall.

“We definitely are working on bigger and better options,” he said. “Some will occur yet this year. Some will not occur until next year.”

Montz said it is important to gain the trust of businesses, so when they want to keep negotiations confidential, all parties abide.

“They don’t want the information to leak out. … It could make those negotiations fall apart,” he said. “Whenever we are working with any kind of business, if they ask us to keep things confidential, we do that up until the point that they allow us to make an announcement.”

Zak stressed the importance of professionalism and confidentiality when working with developers.

“The economic development business, the game, the way it works … developers and businesses are willing to talk to us because we keep everything confidential,” he said. “We work with them to announce it when they want and the way they want to.

“They may end up deciding not to come into the community. If they end up deciding not to, they don’t want a bad reputation in the community. When Chipotle came, it wasn’t the first time they looked at Tiffin.”

Montz and Zak said if information leaks about negotiations, it could kill a deal and could hurt the community’s relationship with other developers and businesses.

Montz said he understands why residents may become impatient, but he said announcements of new businesses coming will be made as soon as possible.

“Trust me when I say it. We absolutely love when we get to make an announcement of something new coming to Tiffin or of an existing business expanding,” he said. “We never hold back from something just because we want to be the only ones that know. It serves no good purpose for us to do that.”

Zak said another factor which could make people impatient is that economic development deals typically take six months to three years.

“I’ve seen stuff shorter than that and longer, but those were exceptions,” he said. “Six months is lightning fast.”

Zak said there are many positive factors working toward the improvement of the mall site.

“(KHPM) didn’t purchase the mall for $2.2 million not to generate revenue,” he said. “As you know, they’re working actively to recruit tenants. Development doesn’t happen overnight.”

Montz said he believes one to three new businesses could be announced by the end of the month, but he said they can’t be announced until contracts are signed and decisions are confirmed.

Although development is likely at the mall site, Zak said it may come in a different form than that of a traditional enclosed mall.

“There have not been any new enclosed mall built, to my knowledge, in North America in at least 10, maybe 15 years,” he said. “The enclosed mall is not how people want to shop. But, I would say malls are being redeveloped in different ways all around the country.”

Montz agreed.

“Malls across this country are dying,” he said. “New construction on indoor malls have come to, almost, a complete standstill in the United States. If we think we are going to bring the mall back as the mall once was … that is not going to happen.”

Montz still believes the future is bright for the property.

“What is going to happen … the site is going to go through stages and be fully redeveloped as a great place and a vibrant place for Tiffin. We have to have some patience.

“These things come in phases, they don’t happen overnight.”

Montz said he has complete confidence in the future of the site.

Zak said he also thinks the overall economic development momentum citywide could help the property.

“The first week I came to town (in 2014), the announcement of Gordon Lumber closing and Staples leaving was made,” he said. “Look where we’ve come since then. There is change, there will be growth and there will be businesses that close. We like to look at, overall, where things are going.

“It’s exciting to know the developers who own the mall have done successful development elsewhere. They are motivated and working on it.”