The Marketplace at Steamtown Mall in Scranton, PA: Challenges and Triumphs

Early Development and Vision

The Marketplace at Steamtown, initially known as The Mall at Steamtown, opened during Halloween weekend in 1993. Scranton Mall Associates developed the mall with Al Boscov of Boscov’s Department Stores.

The project, which occupied part of the former Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad yard, aimed to revitalize downtown Scranton.

The construction cost $90 million and required demolishing several buildings. The implosion of five structures in April 1992 marked a key event.

Before the mall’s development, the area faced challenges like drugs and prostitution. The mall’s opening drew national attention, was featured on CNN, and was attended by then-Governor Robert P. Casey, Sr.

The mall featured three anchor tenants: Boscov’s, Montgomery Ward, and The Globe Store, with a peak of 70 stores. The two-level design included a food court overlooking the Steamtown National Historic Site and a pedestrian bridge to the site. These features made it a central part of the things to do in Scranton, PA.

Peak and Early Successes

The Marketplace at Steamtown reached its peak in the mid to late 1990s. With Boscov’s, Montgomery Ward, and The Globe Store as anchor tenants, the mall drew in a steady flow of shoppers.

At its height, the mall provided various shopping and dining options that catered to different tastes and needs.

2000 The Bon-Ton department store relocated from the Keyser Oak Shopping Center to the mall. This move brought additional foot traffic and helped solidify the mall’s position as a retail hub.

The mall’s two-level design, featuring a spacious food court on the second floor overlooking the Steamtown National Historic Site, became a favorite gathering spot for visitors.

The food court offered various dining choices, making it an ideal place for shoppers to take a break and enjoy a meal.

The mall also served as a venue for various community events and activities, contributing to its popularity. One notable highlight was its appearance in several episodes of the NBC sitcom The Office, which was set in Scranton.

This exposure gave the mall a unique charm, attracting show fans who wanted to see the real-life locations referenced in the series.

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Additionally, events such as holiday celebrations, local art displays, and special promotions kept the mall bustling with activity and engagement from the community.

During this time, the Marketplace at Steamtown became essential to the downtown Scranton experience.

The mall’s success during this period reflected its role in revitalizing the downtown area and its importance to the local economy.

Decline and Foreclosure

The Marketplace at Steamtown began to struggle in the early 2010s. Retail trends were shifting, and the mall felt the impact. The Bon-Ton, an anchor store since 2000, closed its doors on January 31, 2014.

This closure was a major blow, as The Bon-Ton occupied a large space and drew significant foot traffic. Following this, other stores like American Eagle and ATOS Chicken & Waffles also shut down, leaving the mall with many vacant storefronts.

The financial strain became evident. By March 7, 2014, Steamtown Mall Partners, the mall’s owners, could not make the $40.5 million mortgage payment, pushing the mall into foreclosure.

The occupancy rate had plummeted to around 65%, far below the level needed to maintain financial stability.

Competition from other shopping centers, such as The Shoppes at Montage and Viewmont Mall, and the rise of online shopping compounded the mall’s challenges.

The situation culminated in a sheriff’s sale on July 15, 2014. LNR Partners acquired the mall for $1,560, covering only the costs and taxes. This low sale price underscored the mall’s dire situation.

The foreclosure highlighted how vulnerable traditional retail spaces had become in the face of changing consumer behaviors and increasing competition.

During this period, many other stores closed. Express, As Seen on TV, Cinnabon/Carvel, Steamtown Pub and Grill all left. The degradation of part of the parking deck near the former Bon-Ton store added to the mall’s woes, requiring sections to close for safety reasons.

Overall parking capacity remained sufficient due to the garage beneath the mall and another deck near Boscov’s, but the need for repairs was an additional financial burden.

The Steamtown 8 Cinemas, operated by Marquee Cinemas, also faced difficulties. It couldn’t afford to upgrade to digital projectors, so Marquee did not renew its lease at the end of 2014.

Other closures followed: Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister shut down in December 2014, Lids and Nathan’s Hot Dogs closed in January 2015, and The Bodywork Store and f.y.e. left in May 2015. By this time, the mall’s vacancy rate had soared to 75%.

Transition and Auction

After the foreclosure, The Marketplace at Steamtown faced more changes. In 2015, the property went up for auction. LNR Partners, the new owners, initially set a starting price of $1 million, but they lowered it to $700,000 to attract more bidders.

During the auction held from June 22-24, 2015, local developer John Basalyga made the winning bid. He purchased the mall for $5.25 million, which included a 5% buyer’s premium, for a total cost of about $5.5 million.

The First National Community Bank of Dunmore financed his acquisition with a $4.2 million mortgage. Basalyga saw potential in the mall and aimed to revitalize it.

Basalyga’s plans involved maintaining the mall as a retail and community hub. He faced challenges, including deferred maintenance and necessary repairs to the parking garage.

Despite these issues, he committed to investing in the mall’s future. His approach was to introduce new tenants and repurpose some of the existing space to meet current market demands.

These closures and the foreclosure significantly impacted the local community and economy. The city of Scranton owed more than $3.6 million in loans secured for the mall, and a missed payment led to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development withholding $613,000.

The mall’s struggles also affected other businesses in downtown Scranton, highlighting the broader economic challenges faced by the area.

Rebranding and Revitalization

In May 2016, John Basalyga rebranded the mall as The Marketplace at Steamtown. This new name reflected a broader vision for the space, aiming to attract a diverse range of tenants and visitors and move beyond traditional retail.

One of the first changes involved converting a former anchor store into a satellite campus for Luzerne County Community College (LCCC).

This educational addition opened in the summer of 2016, bringing a steady stream of students and faculty into the mall. This move helped fill the space and added a new dimension to the mall’s offerings.

The Marketplace also introduced new entertainment options. A movie theater and a large indoor playground were planned to draw families.

The Scranton Public Market, an area for local vendors, opened in late 2017. It featured eateries and craft sellers from the region, making the mall a destination for unique shopping and dining experiences.

The changes brought new life to The Marketplace at Steamtown. Retailers like Delta Medix, Crunch Fitness, and Starbucks joined, contributing to the mall’s diverse mix of tenants.

These additions made the mall more attractive for shopping and community activities. The revitalization efforts showed a commitment to adapting and thriving in a changing retail environment.

The Marketplace at Steamtown: Current Tenants and Developments

The Marketplace at Steamtown hosts a variety of tenants today, reflecting its transformation into a mixed-use facility. This diverse mix includes retail shops, dining options, fitness centers, and professional services.

One notable tenant is Crunch Fitness, which attracts health enthusiasts. The gym and Crunch Juice & Smoothie Bar provide a spot for fitness and refreshment. Boscov’s remains a key anchor, continuing to draw shoppers with its extensive selection of goods.

The mall offers several choices for food lovers. Downtown Cosgrove’s, Amori Sushi, Saigon Corner, and Ruano’s Pizza & Pasta provide a range of dining options. The Scranton Public Market features local vendors, adding unique flavors and products.

Professional services also have a strong presence. Delta Medix and Geisinger offer healthcare services, while the Lehigh Valley Health Network and Electric City Dentistry cater to medical and dental needs. The Dime Bank and the Social Security Administration provide essential financial and administrative services.

Educational and community-focused tenants add further value. Luzerne County Community College (LCCC) operates a satellite campus, drawing students and educators.

The Library Express Bookstore offers a spot for reading and learning. The Grand Army of the Republic Museum provides historical insights, enriching the mall’s cultural landscape.

Specialty stores like Nick D’s Video Game Vault, SKX Sneaker King, and Taste of Luv add variety, attracting interest groups. The Electric City Aquarium provides an educational and entertaining attraction for families.

This mix of tenants showcases the mall’s evolution from a traditional shopping center to a dynamic community hub. The diverse offerings ensure something for everyone, making The Marketplace at Steamtown a vibrant part of downtown Scranton.

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