BIG business

The owners of Eastwood Mall may not have set out to make history as the second-biggest mall in America, but for certain no one is arguing with the title.

And while there are no grand plans to radically change the complex, if they ever did surpass Minnesota’s “Mall of America” as the biggest shopping mall in the country, probably the owners at Youngstown-based Cafaro Co. would not be upset.

“From what I understand, no one ever sat down and said ‘We want to build the biggest shopping center in America,’ ” Cafaro spokesman Joe Bell said last week. “The Eastwood complex evolved and grew largely to meet the needs of consumers as demand grew during the 1980s and ’90s.”

And grow it did. The mall complex, which includes all leased retail space on the property, is now listed at 3,003,868 square feet. That includes the enclosed mall as well as “out-parcels” known as Great East Plaza, Howland Commons, North Commons, McKinley Centre and Boulevard Centre, Bell said. (The enclosed mall proper is 1.54 million square feet.) All told, it is ranked second behind the Bloomington, Minn., behemoth listed at 4.2 million square feet with 520 stores.

Some shoppers inside Eastwood Mall last week expressed surprise at the rank, but others were well aware of Eastwood’s status in this heavy-weight shopping center title bout.

Lakeview High School graduate Jeremiah Hill, who frequents the mall regularly, knew of the ranking. His mother, Bonnie Hill of Kinsman, with whom he was shopping this day, did not.

“I find it interesting that the store selection changes so frequently,” Jeremiah Hill noted.

Now, that just might be part of the plan.

“There are plans to continue to make the tenant mix meet the needs of the marketplace,” Bell said. “We’ve already seen the evolution from a shopping center focused heavily on apparel and general retail to one that now includes more professional services, dining, entertainment, lodging and even education. I can only imagine that the Eastwood Complex will continue to this type of mixed use property.”

That’s a good thing for Cassandra Valentini, who was shopping last week on her lunch break. She works in the Area Agency on Aging 11 office on the mall’s second floor.

Development at the complex isn’t expected to slow any time soon. A new attached four-story, 103-room Residence Inn by Marriott hotel is slated to open here early next year. Once it’s done, its size will be considered part of the square footage of the leased space, Bell noted.

Henry Vaughns of Niles, approaching his 90th birthday in September, was all smiles as he stood near the “e-quarium” at center court. He comes here, he said, to walk a few times each week.

So, who knows? One could say this massive retail environment just might also provide the secret to longevity in life.