Former Salem Mall Sears purchase expected to boost development

The Trotwood Sears building at the former Salem Mall is expected to be purchased by the Trotwood Community Improvement Corporation early next month. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
The Trotwood Sears building at the former Salem Mall is expected to be purchased by the Trotwood Community Improvement Corporation early next month. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

A Trotwood improvement group is in the final stages of purchasing the yearslong vacant Sears store at the former Salem Mall — a move city leaders say is a major step toward future redevelopment of a mixed-use site.

The Southern District of New York U.S. Bankruptcy Court has approved the Trotwood Community Improvement Corporation’s $70,000 bid to buy the former Trotwood Sears building at 5200 Salem Ave., according to court documents made public this week. Creditors have until 4 p.m. July 31 to object the sale, after which Trotwood and Sears can close the deal.

The deal will close within 15 days of the filing of the sale notice if no creditors object, according to the approved purchase agreement.

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“We look at this asset as an opportunity to rekindle development of the former Salem Mall,” said Fred Burkhardt, executive director of Trotwood CIC.

The timeline for redevelopment starts immediately when the sale is finalized, said Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald. As soon as it’s in the city’s hands, the marketing for the space will begin. There are a number of options on the table for the sites reuse, but none that could be shared yet, McDonald said.

“We plan for that site to be mixed use…we’re looking at housing, business, retail, all of those pieces,” McDonald said.

The former Sears building is the only part of the land the city doesn’t yet control. The Trotwood Community Improvement Corporation previously bought the Salem Mall in 2004, according to Montgomery County records. It demolished the entire mall, aside from Sears in 2006.

“This building is 127,000 square feet of good construction. We feel that it’s going to be an attractive addition to Trotwood and will trigger further interest in the development of the former Salem Mall,” Burkhardt said.

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Built in 1966, the mall suffered a decline in the 1990s when JCPenney and Lazarus, two of its anchors, closed. The property has been vacant since the mall was demolished, aside from the Sears store that operated as a stand-alone store until it closed in 2014, according to previous reporting from the Dayton Daily News.

There was still leftover debris on the 56-acre site until a $200,000 federal grant helped with cleanup costs in 2018 and this year. The site is now clear and grass is growing, McDonald said.

“I have lived in the city of Trotwood for 32 years, and when over time, as the mall site and everything about retail changed, Sears was still there,” McDonald said. “To now see it go through the change it has gone through and to now see that the city of Trotwood has a chance to make a difference, is huge.”

The building is currently owned by Sears Roebuck + Company and is valued at $400,000, according to Montgomery County property records. Sears Roebuck + Company is part of Sears Corporation, which filed for bankruptcy in October. All sales of assets owned by a company in bankruptcy must go through the courts.

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As part of the bankruptcy, Sears closed all area stores. The Sears at the Mall at Fairfield Commons was owned by the mall’s owners Washington Prime Group and is already being redeveloped into The RoomPlace and Round1 Entertainment.

But big-box stores often own their own real estate, as was the case at the former Salem Mall and Dayton Mall. The Dayton Mall site is still owned by Seritage SRC Finance, a real estate arm spun off from Sears in 2015. There have been no formal plans announced for the space.

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