Thursday, April 25, 2019 Elyria 59°


Macy's at Midway Mall to close

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ELYRIA — Macy’s at Midway Mall will close this year.

The national department store chain, headquartered in Cincinnati, announced Wednesday that the Elyria location will be one of 40 Macy’s stores that will be closed to try and make the company more cost-effective. Currently, there are 770 Macy’s stores.

In addition to the Midway Mall location, the location at Chapel Hill in Summit County also is slated to close. The two stores are the only Ohio locations on a store closing list released by the company.

Of the 40 stores, 36 locations will be closed in early spring, consistent with its announcement of the closings, which were announced in September. Four stores were closed last year.

In a statement, the company said it is focusing on Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores in the best locations.

“Both to serve shoppers who walk through the door and to fulfill orders that are shipped directly to customers around the country,” said Terry J. Lundgren, chairman and chief executive officer of Macy’s Inc. “In today’s rapidly evolving retail environment, it is essential that we maintain a portfolio of the right stores in the right places. So we will continue to add stores selectively while also being disciplined about closing stores that are unproductive or no longer robust shopping destinations because of changes in the local retail shopping landscape.”

It was business as usual Wednesday as shoppers and store employees went about their day.

Smiling employees helped customers find items and make returns while bagging items and handling cash without a closing sign in sight.

Macy’s managers declined to discuss the closing, referring all store-related questions to corporate levels.

According to Macy’s, its Midway Mall location opened in 1990 and occupies 105,000 square feet. The store employs 64 associates.

Macy’s has said that associates displaced by store closings may be offered positions in nearby stores where possible. Eligible full- and part-time associates who are laid off due to the store closings will be offered severance benefits.

Mayor Holly Brinda said she was shocked to learn Macy’s will close because she has a very close working relationship with mall general manager Mark Bressler, and he hadn’t indicated that Macy’s planned to leave Elyria.

“I’ve been in constant communication with him, and at no time did he inform me that this had the potential of happening,” she said. “In fact, I was told the mall was investing significantly to improve the property, which tells me maybe he didn’t know.”

Bressler did not return a call seeking comment.

Midway Mall, which is under its fourth owner, has had a less-than-robust reputation for at least a decade. The 2007 closing of Dillard’s, one of the original anchors, was a big blow to the mall. Roughly a year ago, Midway Mall officials were reportedly looking for a new owner for the 1.1-million-square-foot retail center located between state Route 57 and West River Road.

At that time, Brinda said a sale could help the shopping center as opposed to hurt it, but others in the community were not as optimistic.

Midway Mall was acquired by New York-based Blackstone Group from Centro Watt. It is being managed by Madison Marquette Retail Services. Lorain County auditor real estate records list the owner as Centro Midway LCC, which is based in New York.

Centro Watt took over ownership of Midway Mall in May 2006 when the Westfield Group sold the majority of its stake in the property for $98.5 million. As part of that acquisition, Centro Watt also took control of Richland Mall in Mansfield and malls in North Carolina, Connecticut, Missouri, Colorado and California in a deal that totaled $524 million.

That was the second time the mall had been sold, the first when the Westfield Group bought it from the founder, the Richard E. Jacobs Group, in 2002 in a $756 million, nine-mall deal.

It now has multiple vacancies where popular stores used to be. Its once-robust food court — added in the 1990s during the Jacobs’ ownership — now houses two establishments.

Brinda said the closing is unfortunate given that millions of dollars in investments, including reconstruction of state Route 57 and removal of the 49th Street bridge, have been made near the mall.

“We were hoping that by doing that it would not only improve a high crash zone, but also improve access to the whole mall area,” Brinda said.

Lorain resident Grace Arroyo said she was sad to hear the store is closing as she headed into Macy’s on Wednesday.

Although Arroyo does most of her shopping online, she still travels to the Elyria Macy’s to make returns, meaning she’ll now have to head to the Great Northern Mall location in North Olmsted if she needs to see an employee in person.

“It’s sad,” Arroyo said. “But people are saying mall management isn’t renewing any leases here because the land is supposed to be taken up for a big hospital project. Everyone’s saying Macy’s was the last holdout before that can start moving forward.”

That rumored hospital project — the most-prevalent being that Cleveland Clinic is buying the property for some sort of health facility — repeatedly has been quashed by hospital officials. Clinic officials, contacted multiple times in 2015, said they were not interested in the property and were focused on its Avon site off Interstate 90.

Brinda said although a Courtyard by Marriot will open near Atlas Cinemas in the near future, the city has found nothing that indicates a large-scale hospital project is in the works.

“The area is experiencing nearly $23 million in improvement right now, and I’m still hoping it will benefit the mall,” Brinda said. “But we have researched the hospital rumors thoroughly, and all of the hospital systems have denied it. We’ve had conversations with top leadership at University Hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic, and no one has verified that at all.”

There is nothing unique about a bigger department store chain having problems in this retail climate that finds more shoppers making purchases online.

J. C. Penney closed dozens of stores in 2015. Sears has shuttered hundreds of stores in recent years, including the Sears Appliance and Hardware in Sheffield.

Both of those retailers have locations at Midway Mall.

Contact Jon Wysochanski at 329-7123 or Follow him on Twitter @JonWysochanski. Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

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