Overhead view of active construction site work to redevelop Southern Park Mall.

It’s no secret that the landscape of retail shopping in America and across the globe has been changing rapidly in recent years. Across the country, shopping centers, strip malls, traditional malls, and standalone retail spaces alike have all faced challenges in maintaining relevance, foot traffic and profitability. For these reasons, the Columbus-based Washington Prime Group – owner of the Southern Park Mall – knew it was time to look to the future and come up with a strategy to meet the challenge of the times.



Brian Gabbert, general manager of the 1 million+ sq. ft. mall property in the heart of Boardman Township, comments on the realization that a new direction was necessary to ensure viability going forward.

“We as developers came to a crossroads and said, ‘what are we going to do?’ Do we keep doing the same old thing we’ve always done or do we change gears and retool?”

The result was a substantial investment plan that completely transforms the southern end of the mall property into a town center known as DeBartolo Commons – a nod to the crucial role the DeBartolo family has played in the community and the fact that the mall was built by the Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation in 1970. The redesign and expansion is slated to include new dining establishments, a golf training center, outdoor sports and recreation areas, a hike and bike path, storm water retention facilities, as well as space for musical events.

Larry Moliterno, Boardman Township Trustee, speaks about the early planning stages of the redevelopment, and how critical it was to ensure the project would utilize one of the Valley’s abundant resources – skilled construction labor.

“Right away we talked with them about how important it was that they work closely with local labor, because we had always had a great relationship with local labor; they’re an important part of our economy, and they’re an important part of who we are as a community.”

Many member contractors of The Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania have been heavily involved in nearly every aspect of the project. From the site excavation to the roof and everything in between, Builders Association members have worked together to ensure success.

President of Pro-Tec Roofing, Tony Hufford, talks about the ways in which working alongside other familiar union contractors has made the massive job run as smoothly as possible.

“Coordination – on this project particularly – is key. As a union contractor, we pride ourselves on being able to do that with our counterparts.”

Despite additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months, Washington Prime Group has remained steadfastly dedicated to the investment. The Southern Park Mall’s new look is still on schedule to make its public debut in October of this year.

Stay tuned for the second and final installment in this video series documenting the plans for revitalizing Southern Park Mall and the skilled workers that make the developer’s vision a reality.