Plans are under way for a $47 million renovation of the West Manchester Mall, with the redesign turning the facility "inside-out" and transforming the underutilized property into an outdoor mall similar to Hunt Valley Towne Centre in Maryland, one of the mall's owners said Wednesday.
Developers want to attract numerous new national retailers and box stores, as well as several restaurants to occupy pads that would be created on the 95-acre site, said Tony Ruggeri, co-founder of M&R Investors, a Texas firm that bought the ailing mall last year.
Roads and parking lots around the mall will be redesigned, creating public gathering spaces and a plaza that would include seasonal attractions such as a giant Christmas tree, he said.
The footprint of the mall will stay mostly the same, with developers focusing on adaptive re-use of the existing space with one exception: parts of the mall will be demolished in front of Macy's and the former Bon-Ton, creating plaza spaces, he said.
Ruggeri said research has shown there's no need for another completely enclosed mall in York, so the new West Manchester center won't feature the typical indoor mall-like spaces.
The mall's anchor stores - Macy's, Regal Cinemas, Walmart, and Kohl's - will remain. Some of the stores inside the mall - which currently has a high percentage of vacancies - will move to new locations in the center, he said.
Developers will take advantage of a little-used economic development tool that allows the governing bodies to contribute toward the cost of economic development projects that benefit their areas, said Darrell Auterson, president/CEO at York County Economic Alliance.
York County, West Manchester Township and West York Area School Board must agree to give the money generated from the increased assessment on the property back to the project over a period of 10 to 20 years.
The township and the county are on board, with York County President Commissioner Steve Chronister urging the men to finish the project as soon as possible so his wife and daughter stop going out of town to shop.
School board members are expected to make a decision at their upcoming meeting, said Ronald Lucas, a Harrisburg attorney helping to coordinate the process.
Auterson said the mall revitalization marks only the third time he's aware of this economic development tool being employed in York County. The other two are a decades-old Industrial Plaza of York project and a deal to relocate some of the local operations of manufacturer Johnson Controls to Shrewsbury Township.
Ruggeri said the new center will be dynamic, bringing retail energy back to the west end of the county with a fresh mix of lifestyle-related and mass-market tenants.
He declined to name any of the retailers the mall is talking to, some of which he said would be new to the York market, because negotiations are still under way.
He said he's hoping ground can be broken soon so some of the new stores can be occupied in 2014, and he's expecting the development to lead to more development.
"Retailers tend to go where retailers are," he said.