Work is going on at the Harrisburg Mall in Swatara Township.
Maryland-based St. John Properties has received a demolition permit for the interior of the former Boscov’s/JCPenney space, the former Macy’s store, and the former Great Escape movie theater, according to Robert Ihlein, the director of building and codes department for the township. He said the mall owners have not revealed any further plans and he stressed that the permits are only for the inside of the three spaces. Officials at the mall couldn’t be reached for comment.
The Harrisburg Mall has more than one million square feet of retail shopping space on two levels but has a number of vacancies including three of its four larges spaces. The mall is anchored by Bass Pro Shops.
The longtime JCPenney store closed in 2005 and then was occupied by Boscov’s until 2008. The three-story Macy’s store closed last year. And the Great Escape movie theater is closed. Last year, the mall filed a lawsuit against the movie theater’s parent company, Cineworld for $557,000 in back rent.
When Macy’s announced in January of last year that it would be closing its store at the mall, the shopping center had approximately 29 vacant spaces. One year later in January of this year, a PennLive reporter counted around 39 vacant spaces.
It has been a tough time for malls in recent years as numerous retailers have either closed stores or closed for good.
And it’s not clear what’s next for the Harrisburg Mall.
Over at the other mall on the East Shore — the nearby Colonial Park Mall in Lower Paxton Township has a number of vacancies as well including the former Bon-Ton space. And the Sears store is expected to close this weekend. Transformco, which acquired Sears out of bankruptcy two years ago, said it plans to “redevelop and reinvigorate the property.”
But, Transformco, which owns the Sears property at the mall hasn’t expanded on what it plans to do with the space. Last year, Lower Paxton Township Board of Supervisors adopted a Towne Center zoning district to facilitate “walkable, livable, and attractive mixed-use development centers of a sustainable density to create a sense of place”. And in August, the mall and several nearby properties were rezoned to the Towne Center zoning district, which could set up the groundwork for possible redevelopment at the mall.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many malls were finding creative ways to fill spaces left vacant as a result of the “retail apocalypse” as more shoppers have turned to the internet over in-person shopping, something that has only increased through the pandemic.
The Capital City Mall in Lower Allen Township and the Park City Center in Lancaster have added entertainment venues. The Park City Center and the York Galleria Mall in Springettsbury Township have added gyms. The Lebanon Valley Mall has a grocery store, a gym and a church. Of course there hasn’t been any larger addition to a mall in the region than the new $120 million Hollywood Casino York that opened at the York Galleria Mall recently.
As for the Harrisburg Mall, the only visible sign of demolition is on the outside of the bottom level of Macy’s where there are holes in the bottom right side of the former store and some demolition work and equipment. On the inside the two former stores and the movie theater are boarded up.