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Boscov’s construction takes back seat

Retailer remains committed to Eastwood Mall despite virus fallout

NILES — Construction of a highly anticipated Boscov’s department store has stalled, but the retailer remains committed to opening at the Eastwood Mall — it’s just a matter of when.

At this point, it’s unknown if the Reading, Pa.-based company will meet the October deadline it set to open at the mall — it shut down all operations when the coronavirus struck and when the economy starts moving again, expansion, remodel and new store construction aren’t at the top of Boscov’s list of priorities.

The focus will be getting the distribution pipeline flowing again, opening the existing stores and returning furloughed employees back to work, said Jacob Stein, senior vice president of communications, real estate and maintenance for Boscov’s.

Stein said Boscov’s remains “100 percent” committed to Niles with plans to open, but “I can’t tell you exactly what that date will be.

“We’re committed. There has been no conversation about not doing it, but the majority of our focus is addressing the existing fleet. It’s more a question of when, not a question of if,” Stein said, adding the company wants to be part of the Mahoning Valley community and partner with mall owner / operator, the Cafaro Company.

The companies have partnered twice already for stores at Cafaro malls in St. Clairsville and in Erie, Pa.

It was January when the companies announced the latest partnership — for Boscov’s to occupy 180,000 square feet plus, or about one-third of the mall’s west concourse. Most of the space is the former Sears store, but several other stores had to be relocated to make space for the retailer.

Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for Cafaro, said those stores were relocated before the mall closed at the end of March to comply with Ohio’s order to shutter temporarily nonessential businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the state-of-the-art Eastwood Event Centre is moving forward ahead of schedule for now, Bell said, due to the coronavirus. Some contractors working there had other projects canceled because of the virus, so they were able to add resources, pushing the project ahead.

But Cafaro is exercising caution.

“This goes for any of the construction going on. We are just putting a big asterisk beside it because we know any of the events happening in society right now could throw it off schedule,” Bell said.

The event center has a scheduled open date of Oct. 1. It is about 30,000 square feet and will feature the latest high-tech audio and visual equipment. It will host traditional social events like wedding receptions, but also conferences.

“We hope to be able to attract conferences and events from around the state and around the region so that the facility is being utilized Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. ’til whatever time and filling the hotel rooms with out-of-town guests. Whether it is a conference for whatever trade group and whether that space is cut up into six different spaces that can have concurrent sessions going or one large ballroom, we are going to have that flexibility. Or maybe there could be three different types of groups all going on at the same time,” Cafaro Company co-president Anthony M. Cafaro Jr. has said.

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