Why Would the Harrisburg Mall Reject Futureland?
Upon visiting the Harrisburg Mall website
, one is greeted with two blissful, bag-toting, attractive young women, along with address and hours, links for a store directory and directions, and a notice that reads: This site is currently under construction.
While most entities with a longstanding online presence have been through lags on site redesigns, it is somehwat odd that a more robust web option isn't available while the mall buttons things up.
Imagine what Futureland might be: Monitors buzzing with graphics, music and product demos; a coworking space full of hungry, thirsty, caffeine and sugar-seeking designers and developers; hackathons that aim to help the mall and its tenants function better; partnerships with Harrisburg University of Science or Technology or Harrisburg Area Community College that bring young, educated and tech-saavy shoppers to meet local enterpreneurial rock stars who have taken up space there
Alas, Futureland is not in the cards for this mall.
What makes the owners' decision strange is they've already committed to Thorne, who has contracted with the mall to establish a pair of Prize Monkey's gaming vending machines there and update its Wi-Fi access. The mall already dipped its toe in the startup pool; why would it back off a chance to fill space, collect rent and attract a different kind of shopper/gawker to its large, two-story facility?
Maybe they are taking a wait-and-see approach? Most probably it's because the mall's new owners seem to think they can attract upscale retailers (like Nordstroms). The mall's checkered past, however, makes that seem like a bit of a pipedream, for now at least, although it's important to point out the new owners have quite a bit of experience in running shopping centers.
Petrie Ross Ventures
and St. John Properties Inc.
purchased the mall last month for $9.5 million. The new owners recently announced it will demolish the unfinished addition that would have housed a restaurant. This is three years after it was sold at sheriff's sale -- not long after Barnes & Noble reneged on a tentative commitment to open a location at the mall.
The good news is Thorne indicated to the CPBJ that Futureland's board would shop the idea around to other midstate malls. The economy has been hard on shopping malls especially, and similar vacancy rates plague other malls throughout the state and the U.S.
In rejecting Futureland, the Harrisburg Mall's new owners lost a huge opportunity to innovate, even if only temporarily, in its quest to make the mall profitable and attractive.
The good news? Another PA mall's future may have just gotten a whole lot brighter.
JOE PETRUCCI is managing editor of Keystone Edge. Send feedback here.