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Auction for Fort Steuben Mall held online

STEUBENVILLE — Brookwood Capital Advisors, the Nashville-based redevelopment specialist that purchased the Fort Steuben Mall five weeks ago, is ready to become its former owner.

Brookwood Partner Wyatt Woeltje said his company plans to sell the mall via online auction May 2-4 to what they’re hoping will be a local or regional buyer.

“We really do truly want it to go to a local person,” Woeltje said. “When you sell to a local person, it always turns out better for the asset and the community. I would love for the community to rally behind this … to make sure the asset stays … for future generations.”

Brookwood’s specialty is turning high-vacancy shopping centers into high yield properties. No sooner had they closed on the mall deal Feb. 23 than they had roofers on site patching holes “and repairing areas that needed repaired,” Woeltje said. On the business side, he said they recruited 11 local businesses into the mall. A major announcement on a movie theater could come within the week, he said.

Adding to the buzz, in October 2019 the Ferguson Group had acquired the former Sears building, well over 125,000 square feet of floor space, and announced plans to fill it with games and attractions for all ages, though their opening was delayed by COVID. They’ve said the space will accommodate everything from birthdays, bachelor parties and baby showers to corporate events. The Ferguson Group’s plans also include a restaurant.

“They (had) a slight delay during COVID, getting the machines in they wanted,” Woeltje said. “They had a person come in and assess what games would do well here and align it. They’re working on it.”

As they’ve stabilized local leases and drawn foot traffic back in the mall, Woeltje said it only made sense to “get a local person in who can be boots on the ground, maintain those relations and finish it, take it the rest of the way.”

“We feel better about a local investor maintaining the quality of the mall,” he said. “We’re very proactive owners. We’re also very proactive about getting local awareness, getting local people involved and, hopefully, local owners. I’ve seen people from Florida and New York come in, they don’t care about them long-term, they care about the bottom line. We’re different.”

Woeltje said Steubenville is “really a great market.”

“Everyone here wants it to be a success,” he said. “The reason we’re getting them in, it’s not that we’re wizards, we just want to do people right.”

He said potential entrepreneurs “see (JCPenney), they see Walmart, Texas Roadhouse and Eat’n Park” and wanted to be part of the business environment at the mall.

“I think a lot of people wanted to come in and have a business, be successful,” he said. “This mall, it’s great. There’s a lot of good things happening here. Hopefully, they’ll see a lot of good things happening around the community. We’ve done what we think we can, now we want to pass it along (to someone) who will hold on to this thing, make sure it stays successful for the next 50 years as well.”

But he also said the mall will sell, “no matter what.”

“We will meet the market, we want to be fair,” Woeltje added. “Whatever the market dictates the price to be. It will sell.”

The mall was built in 1974.

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