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"Grave concern" for Boulevard Mall's future

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Posted at 3:32 PM, Jan 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-25 13:53:56-05

The future of the Boulevard Mall is filled with uncertainly, and that has the Amherst Chamber of Commerce telling 7 Eyewitness News there is "grave concern" about what will happen to the region's oldest enclosed shopping mall.

Last year, Forest City Realty Trust in Cleveland, the mall's owners, announced the Boulevard Mall was being put up for sale.

At the beginning of January 2017, Sears announced it would be closing its store at the mall.

This past weekend, GameStop closed its doors with workers telling customers that the mall is "not what it was" and customer traffic "is way down."

Store closing signs are now hanging on "5-7-9" and "PacSun."  Lights are off at "The Limited" and traffic in the mall is very light.

A merchant in the mall tells 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly there is a feeling that the "mall is dying" and the merchant said many expect more stores to close over the next few months.

Colleen DiPirro, President and CEO of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, said the situation is something that is being driven by a shift in shopping habits as people move away from malls and use more online options.

However, having the mall fail is not something that Amherst officials are willing to just let happen.  DiPirro said discussions are already underway about re-purposing the mall into new uses so that it doesn't end up being an empty shell.

Some of those future options could include more kiosks and livable communities inside the structure, said DiPirro.

Forest City Realty Trust spokesperson Jeff Linton said it is company policy to not comment on individual store closures or the sale process, but Linton did issue a statement concerning the Sears closing.

"I can confirm that we have been notified that as part of a nationwide reduction in its retail store count, Sears plans to close its location at Boulevard Mall by early April 2017.

While the closure will be unfortunate for those directly affected, we believe it has the potential to create opportunity for Boulevard Mall through creative re-purposing of the store space, which would enable us to welcome new retailers and other potential tenants who could not previously be accommodated at the center.  While there are no specific plans to announce at this time, we will keep the market updated as appropriate.

Boulevard Mall remains a key retail destination for the Greater Buffalo area, and a vital asset for the community.

J.B. Linton
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications
   and Community Relations
Forest City Realty Trust

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Ed Reilly has more in his reports.