Revitalizing the Ohio Valley Mall

In the wake of numerous store closings, some positive changes are coming to the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville.

One new addition to the retail site may seem like an odd fit at first glance. Rather than being a restaurant or a store, it is a health care center.

The new Belmont County Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic held its grand opening at the mall on Friday. The facility is located near Sears, across from Ulta Beauty, in a 16,000-square-foot space.

The outpatient center previously was located on Plaza Drive in St. Clairsville, near Riesbeck’s, and was established 20 years ago. It has offered military veterans the option of seeking health care services close to home, rather than traveling to the VA hospital in Pittsburgh. In 2018, more than 5,000 veterans used the clinic, officials said.

Valor Healthcare operates the clinic, and the company has been providing veterans’ health care since 2004. The move, suggested by Valor, doubles the available space for the facility, and it provides a more centralized, convenient location close to other services and amenities. For example, a veteran now could easily attend a doctor’s appointment and pick up a new pair of shoes while inside the mall. Or, a veteran’s wife could shop for a new coat while waiting for her husband to receive health care.

Not only is the clinic expanding in terms of space, but it also is adding a fifth physician and additional staff members to help meet the needs of more veterans. Another advantage is that buses operated by East Ohio Regional Transit Authority visit the mall every day, making it possible for veterans who do not have transportation of their own to get there from areas such as Bridgeport and Martins Ferry. Those buses do not travel to Plaza West, the clinic’s former location.

All of this adds up to a win-win for local veterans and the mall itself, as the presence of the clinic no doubt will attract more patrons to the mall.

Meanwhile, the old Kmart structure is being torn off of one end of the mall. After it stood empty for more than two years, officials with Cafaro Co., the mall’s parent company, inked a deal with Dunham’s sporting goods store and with Hampton Inn & Suites. New construction in that area will house both the retailer and the hotel, which will be a four-story structure connected to the north concourse of the mall.

Dunham’s may seem like a natural fit for a shopping mall, but some area residents have expressed concern about the addition of another hotel in the area. Already, two hotels exist on the perimeter of the mall, with several more close by.

We believe, however, that any new development at the mall is a good sign. With brick-and-mortar retailers across the nation struggling in the face of online competition, companies such as Cafaro need to be creative in finding new solutions for older facilities.

Kudos to these new additions to the mall, and we look forward to hearing what will come next.