The familiar orange fountain once at the center of the former Rolling Acres Mall is still standing — yet a large chunk of the mall around it is gone.



Demolition crews have removed two wings of the interior of the mall since they began in October and will soon start on the area above the food court, said Brad Beckert, city development engineering manager in the mayor’s Office of Economic Development.



“They started over by Sears and moved east, jumped over the fountain and kept going,” Beckert said.





(Leah Klafczynski/Akron Beacon Journal)

Crews work to demolish Rolling Acres Mall fountain area on Wednesday in Akron. Demolition of the mall is taking longer than anticipated.


The city of Akron became the owner of the interior of the mall on Romig Road and about 50 acres around it in June after Summit County foreclosed on the mall owner after eight years of legal maneuvering.





(Leah Klafczynski/Akron Beacon Journal)

An excavator demolishes Rolling Acres Mall on Wednesday in Akron. Demolition of the mall is taking longer than anticipated.


The inside of Rolling Acres closed in 2008 when electricity was about to be turned off for nonpayment. The mall, which opened in 1975, had been in decline for years before it closed.



On a recent day, the former center court and tiered orange tiles that once held the fountain were still standing, surrounded by large steel beams and the ceiling of the mall.



Ken Rankin, project manager for Eslich Wrecking of Louisville, said the steel at the center court is a different type of steel than the materials that have been taken apart in the former stores.



Nearly all the steel is being recycled to various vendors by Eslich, he said. The majority — 638 tons so far — has been sold to Canton steelmaker TimkenSteel.





The city of Akron does not receive any money for the recycled materials sold by Eslich. When Eslich and others bid on the demolition project, they took into account what they could make back in recycled materials, Rankin said.



In other projects, copper piping and other materials can be recycled and sold, but Rankin acknowledged that there wasn’t any copper left in the former mall after vandals stripped it years ago.



The steel taken first to TimkenSteel’s City Scrap recycling facility was then sent to the Canton Faircrest Steel Plant, where it could be melted and processed for raw materials, removing any impurities, said TimkenSteel’s Elaine Russell Reolfi, vice president of organizational advancement and corporate relations.



“Our products end up all over the world, including our hometown where, conceivably, the engine in the car or truck next to you could contain some of the old mall,” she said.



Additionally, the former mall’s tile and concrete floor will be crushed and some of it will be used to fill in the basement-level of the former food court, said Rankin. The remainder will be taken to Eslich’s sister company to be crushed and turned into recycled concrete for Ohio Department of Transportation road projects, he said.



The front perimeter of the mall, which faces Romig Road, remains intact for now.



“It’s a good guard (for the weather) and it keeps people out,” said Beckert.





(Leah Klafczynski/Akron Beacon Journal)

The current state of the fountain area at Rolling Acres Mall in Akron. Crews are working to demolish the mall.


Work on the demolition of the mall has been going as expected, Beckert said, though it will take longer than originally anticipated. Work will continue in the winter weather.



The city is also working on an agreement to accept the former J.C. Penney retail building as a donation, Beckert said.



“It just takes longer for the city to accept the property and go through the environmental due diligence,” he said. Once the legal paperwork is complete, that building will also be demolished.



The other former department stores — Target, Dillard’s, Macy’s and Sears — are independently owned. Several have said they have successful business operations and are not interested in selling.



Rankin said his crews are first demolishing the interior of the mall.





(Leah Klafczynski/Akron Beacon Journal)

Crews are working to demolish Rolling Acres Mall, photographed on Wednesday in Akron. Demolition of the mall is taking longer than anticipated.


His crews’ biggest concerns are making sure that they don’t accidentally cut off utilities to the operations in the former department store locations.



Eventually, his crews will act like surgeons to carefully remove the remaining parts of the mall from the department stores.



“We’re taking things up as close as we feel comfortable with that so we won’t damage the buildings,” Rankin said. “We’re taking out the bulk of it, then we’ll be coming back and let’s call it surgically removing it. It’s a lot slower process. It’s a little more dangerous. We have to have people go up and sometimes cut buildings loose from there.”



What’s next?



City officials right now are focused on clearing the former Rolling Acres site so it can be redeveloped, Beckert said.



“We’re still open to ideas. We’re looking at the utility locations,” he said. “Some kind of job creation is our main focus out there.”



Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ  on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.