October 04, 2021

Editorial: A winning hand at Westmoreland Mall, against the odds

For years, the stories coming out of malls have been pretty consistent — and pretty depressing.

Stores closing. Anchors closing. Sales down. Traffic down.

Just about the only thing rising was interest in online videos of what was happening behind the chained-up doors of long-shuttered shopping nirvanas of decades past. Century III Mall in West Mifflin has only been closed since 2019 — anchor JCPenney lasted until October 2020 — but a video posted on urban explorer Steve Ronin’s Facebook account this month, documenting its haunting emptiness, topped a million hits.

The one big story in Southwestern Pennsylvania malls in the past year was the opening of Live! Casino at Westmoreland Mall in 2020.

A series of new openings at that mall show that maybe the casino is doing what attempts at other shopping venues haven’t been able to spark.

Three new stores have been confirmed. CBL Properties will be welcoming SpectroDolce Confectionery, Western Edge Seafood and Joseph Jacob Jewelers. They join another new tenant from earlier in the year, Gracie Allegiance Jiu-Jitsu Academy.

While SpectroDolce and Joseph Jacob take over spaces occupied by similar businesses that closed, Western Edge is building on the mobile outlet business it started amid restaurant shutdowns during the pandemic. That, in itself, is to be applauded — a creative pivot that paid off.

But the real change may be that the mall is once again being seen as a destination that can feed other business.

Other malls have tried to invent themselves with new anchors such as medical centers or churches — something that pulls in people for one purpose and gives them a chance to do more while on the site. It has not provided exactly the juice anticipated.

The casino, on the other hand, is an anchor that doesn’t depend on one-day-a-week church services or one-visit-a-year checkups.

Westmoreland isn’t the only mall that has scored a mini-casino. The state has licensed them in a number of communities, including State College and York. They are definitely not an across-the-board solution, as there are a lot more empty malls than the landscape can likely tolerate casinos.

But four new businesses in one year is a nice start to a trend.

View article online here. 

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