EDITORIAL: A chance to remake the York Galleria

York Dispatch

Anyone walking through the York Galleria can see that the Spiringettsbury Township mall is in trouble.

Two of the former anchor stores are completely vacant. A third has been split, with Marshall's on the second floor and Gold's Gym on the first.

There are vacant stores everywhere, and signs proclaim that at least one more, Charlotte Russe, will be closing soon.

The formerly bustling site has lost $30 million in assessed value in 20 years, according to York County tax records. 

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But there are hopes that a proposed mini-casino at the Galleria could change that.

Penn National wants to put the new gambling area in the first floor of the former Sears store, at the west end of the mall.

The owner of Hollywood Casino says the development of Hollywood Casino York is an overall investment of nearly $120 million, which includes the cost of the license. It will generate approximately 200 new permanent local jobs and more than 75 construction jobs, Penn National stated.  

The new casino will bring an estimated $1 million in revenue annually to Springettsbury Township, officials said.

The York Galleria Mall, Tuesday, February 5, 2019. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

And more than that, it will bring some added life to the mall.

"I think this brought new attention to the mall, and I think that's certainly benefited the mall, and it's only going to continue," said York County Economic Alliance CEO and President Kevin Schreiber about the proposed casino.

The Galleria is owned and operated by CBL & Associates Property Inc., based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The site has 764,710 square feet of leasable area, according to the CBL website.

And the owners are looking at uses for that space beyond retail, said Catharine Wells, CBL director of marketing. 

The Gold's Gym was the first nonretail space in the mall. The proposed casino would continue that trend, and the owners are even considering converting some areas to office space.

Thursday, August 23, 2018--An area that formerly housed the Sears store in the York Galleria Mall is a possible site for a Penn National betting facility. Bill Kalina photo

That makes a lot of sense. The York Galleria is a good property in a prime space in a growing area of York County. 

If the problem is that people have turned to shopping online instead of in person, the solution could be to change the direction of the site.

Malls were originally conceived as spaces where people would be able to live, work and shop, True Commercial Real Estate managing partner Blaze Cambruzzi said.

That's how some spaces such as Water Tower Place in Chicago work. Along with high-end retail and restaurants, the building also has residential space and office space.

While the Galleria will never be a Water Tower, it does have the potential to be more than a dying mall.

A new casino could bring in the needed revenue and customers to revive the space, or at least give the owners a chance to remake it on a new model. And that is a definite asset for the community.

In 2015, the York Galleria in Springettsbury Township featured 13 empty storefronts, which accounted for more than 12 percent of the mall's non-food court spaces. (Photo by David Weissman/ The York Dispatch)