MANSFIELD — The owners of the Kingsgate Shopping Center have asked the Richland County Land Bank for assistance in demolishing down a portion of the property. 

Julie Elker and Eric Elizondo of Skilken Gold came to discuss the fate of 1290 and 1300 Park Avenue West, the two vacant units adjacent to the Volunteers of America Thrift Store on the west side of the shopping center. Both have been vacant for more than 20 years.

Skilken Gold presented a $490,000 proposal that would include demolishing both store fronts and converting the west side wall of the VOA store to an exterior wall.

The company expressed interest in applying for demolition grant funds through the Richland County Land Bank. Land bank board members made it clear that proposal would be a “non-starter” unless it included Skilken Gold forfeiting the property to the land bank.

Skilken Gold representatives said they would take the idea back to their company leadership.

“We’re here to try to work with with you guys to try to come to a solution,” Elker said.

Elker said the two units aren’t leasable in their current condition. She added that clients have expressed interest in the space, but the necessary upgrades are cost-prohibitive — even after Skilken Gold offered zero rent at the property.

“We’ve talked with Ross Dress for Less, we’ve talked with Iron Pony, we’ve talked with furniture companies,” she said. “When we started talking about what specific tenants needed to take the spaces, we cannot even come close — even with free rent.”

Unit 1290 was last used as a portion of a JC Penney store, and has not had a long-term tenant for over 30 years.

The 34,5000 square-foot building has no HVAC, water or main electrical systems in place. The roof is failing and requires constant maintenance. All restrooms and water devices have been removed. Tests revealed asbestos tile and some mold in moderate qualities.

Unit 1300 is a former movie theater that has not been occupied for more than two decades. The building has excessive asbestos and mold and needs extensive environmental abatement. The roof is in poor condition and not safe to inspect due to water damage. The building lacks electrical systems and functioning restrooms.

Richland County Commissioner Tony Vero asked Skilken Gold representatives why the company hadn’t better maintained the property. The Kingsgate Shopping Center was built in 1964 and purchased by Skilken Gold in 1984.

“Wouldn’t it behoove a commercial owner to put money into buildings to make them attractive for prospective clients?” he said.

Elker told the board Skilken Gold had done general maintenance on the property, but refrained from significant investments due to a lack of interest in the area.

“If we could start from scratch, it would be much more appealing,” she added. “Then people could have exactly what they want, how they want it and not have the challenges of moving the plumbing and the electrical.”

Multiple members of the board, including Vero and Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker, said they would not consider using land bank funds or applying for grants for the property unless the land bank would also take ownership of the property.

“If the land bank is going to put the sweat equity, go out and find the dollars to do it, then we owe it to our taxpayers and our residents to maintain control and ownership of the building, to make sure we control that and our community benefits,” Vero said.

Elker and Elizondo said they would bring that proposal back to their company leadership.

Land bank chair Bart Hamilton said the board may be interested in taking on the property, but more discussion is needed.

“I think it’d be something our board would have to talk about,” he said.

Mansfield Building and Codes Manager Marc Milliron said his department is going to contact Skilken Gold after hearing the report of the property’s poor condition.

“At this time, we’re initially just going to letter requesting an inspection,” Milliron told Richland Source after the meeting. 

Milliron said he hasn’t been in the old movie theater since childhood, but based on the photos shown during the land bank meeting, it would likely warrant a condemnation. 

Milliron said if the building truly is in such dire shape, a demolition order could follow — but it likely wouldn’t be until sometime this fall.

Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership. Learn more about Newsroom Partnerships.

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