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Overhaul possible for West Mifflin’s Century III Mall

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Patrick Cloonan | Trib Total Media
The Century III Mall could be in for a dramatic makeover as the owner considers demolishing part of the complex to provide more retailers with outside entrances and bring in medical offices and a hotel.

The Century III Mall could be in for a dramatic makeover as the owner considers demolishing part of the complex to provide more retailers with outside entrances and bring in medical offices and a hotel.

A preliminary plan posted — and later removed on Thursday — from the website of the mall’s owner, Las Vegas-based Moonbeam Capital Investments, called for opening the center part of the 1.3 million-square-foot complex so that it would resemble more of a outdoor shopping plaza.

It also called for a movie theater and 14,800-square-foot hotel, as well as transforming a vacant Sears store into medical offices or an assisted living facility.

Calls and email messages left for Moonbeam officials were not returned. However, West Mifflin officials said they had been talking with Moonbeam about the overhaul.

“We’re excited about it,” said Mayor Chris Kelly. “It’s a drastic change. But that’s the way retail is going. At least it’s a step forward.”

No formal plans have been submitted to the borough, though Kelly said the company hopes to get under way with renovations by 2017.

Opened in 1979, Century III has been in decline for decades. It is now a cavernous complex in which entire wings are made up of dark storefronts. The borough has lost $1 million annually in tax revenue as the mall’s value plummeted, said Borough Manager Brian Kamauf, and officials have been eager to see it redeveloped.

This month, West Mifflin passed a tax incentive to spur redevelopment of properties, including the mall, he said.

In May 2013, Moonbeam bought Century III for $10.5 million but has had little success in turning it around. In December, the mall lost a key tenant when Sears closed, leaving Macy’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and JCPenny as the remaining anchor retailers.

Sears still owns the space it vacated, Kelly and Kamauf said.

A Sears spokesman did not return phone and email messages inquiring about a potential sale to Moonbeam. Last December, Moonbeam Senior Vice President Shawl Pryor told Trib Total Media that he was weighing options for that part of the mall.

“We look at Sears as an opportunity to do something bigger,” Pryor said.

The mall industry is in the midst of reinventing itself, with far more spaces being refurbished than built anew, said Jesse Tron, a spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Plans like the one Moonbeam is considering — to turn an enclosed mall “inside out,” with more storefronts lining outside walkways — are common in redesigns, but their success depends on the local market, he said.

Enclosed malls are more destination-oriented places where visitors spend hours walking around inside browsing stores or having a meal. The open concept considered by Moonbeam better serves a customer looking for convenience by allowing them to park close to the one or two stores they want to visit without having to wander inside.

Moonbeam’s design suggests that Century III is a place for convenience shoppers.

“It’s probably more geared toward that, ‘We feel our consumers benefit more by having quick easy access to multiple destinations,’ ” Tron said. “Especially in areas where there is a lot of space it may make more sense, or in a market where the consumer is more tied to their vehicle.”

Chris Fleisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or [email protected].

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