MANSFIELD — Mansfield Building & Codes officials and members of the city’s fire department on Tuesday morning inspected the only remaining portion of the West Park Shopping Center not already under a demolition order.

“It made sense for all us to be here at the same time in case there were other violations,” Community Development & Housing Director Adrian Ackerman said after the inspections.

“We can issue it all at once and (the owners) will know everything upfront,” Ackerman said.

The east wing of the Park Avenue West strip mall is not physically connected to the rest of the shopping center, which has been condemned and is under current demolition orders.

The entire strip mall is owned by Namdar Realty Group from New York, which operates it under the West Mansfield Realty, LLC.

There are still a few businesses operating in the wing, but some sites are now vacant.

“The units that are occupied, they do have some repairs that are needed, but for the most part, they’re actually in decent shape,” Ackerman said.

“Some of of the vacated units, however, have a lot of repair work that’s needed,” she said.

Ackerman said some of the ceiling tiles inside the units are missing or fallen due to water damage from a leaking roof.

“Most of those ceiling tiles are damaged with mold. Some electrical, plumbing, mechanical things would need to be taken care of in some of the vacant units, but obviously they’re gonna affect the currently occupied units long term, as well,” she said.

Ackerman said the property management company official didn’t have keys to open every vacant unit.

“We will exclude those from the repair orders we will issue and we’re still going to request to see them sometime,” she said.

She said the owners would be given 60 days to make required repairs, though she acknowledged the company could request more time.

Last week, Ackerman said the inspections would be done because the city has concerns the owner will allow the units to deteriorate,” she said.

It also seems to be a pattern for the owners, Namdar Realty Group in New York, which operates the West Park Shopping Center as West Mansfield Realty, LLC, according to a Sept. 10 story published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Pennsylvania newspaper reported Namdar has purchased more than 250 retail centers in 34 states in recent years.

According to the company’s website on Friday, Namdar owns 298 properties in 34 states with 64.9 million in total retail space.

But the company has a checkered past, the newspaper reported.

“At several malls the PG examined, Namdar has failed to maintain the buildings, leaving collapsed roofs, burst pipes and a litany of other concerns. In numerous towns, officials have served the company code violations, condemnation notices and demolition orders — but on many occasions the company either hasn’t responded or neglected to make repairs, records and interviews with officials show,” the Post-Gazette reported.

That reputation raises concerns for Mansfield officials, including Ackerman.

“They operate in so many cities in a similar fashion and they do not appear to be addressing those cities’ concerns in a timely fashion,” she said. “I hesitate to think it will be an easy road ahead. Time will tell.”

The inspection Tuesday came week after the city Planning Commission met in executive session to discuss “imminent, potential litigation” regarding the largest portion of the old shopping center along the “Miracle Mile.”

That closed-door session came after city Law Director John Spon told commission members that attorneys for West Mansfield Realty Co., which owns the property, sent a letter threatening litigation against the city

The commission voted 5-2 on Aug. 18 to deny any further appeals by West Mansfield Realty Co., an LLC owned by Namdar Realty Group in New Jersey. Instead, the city plans to demolish the largest portion of the strip mall and large parking lot on its own.

The city would then likely invoice the company to cover the costs of the work to tear down the demolished property.

The vote on Aug. 18 prompted a quick response from Cincinnati attorney Sean Suder, representing the company during the meeting via Zoom.

“So we can maybe have a separate discussion with your law director. I do think, unfortunately, litigation is imminent,” Suder said.

The vote came at the end of a nearly-hour long meeting, during which Suder and Anthony Matinale, general counsel for Namdar, said they were prepared to demolish the building. Both participated in the meeting via Zoom.

But the two challenged the city’s legal authority to order anything done to the large blacktop parking lot and said it was not a part of the original demolition order nine months ago.

The Planning Commission decision to demolish the property on its own signaled a significant step in a process that began four years ago when the city’s Codes & Permits Department notified the company of violations on the property it purchased in 2015.

No actual demolition work has begun at the site as of Tuesday morning.

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

What's the impact of our reporting?

The Community Development Section is dedicated to reporting on the intersection of the private sector and public funding, economic development efforts, and community engagement. We want to know what impact our reporting is having. Please complete this short survey.

"*" indicates required fields

Have you done any of the following as a result of a community development story published by Richland Source?*
Please select all that apply.
If you made a decision or took action, which of the following apply?*
Please select all that apply.
What is the primary emotion this story triggered?*

If so, please provide your name and contact email in the box below. We will only contact you about this project.

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when...