The man behind the investment firm that owns Chapel Hill Mall in Akron said late Wednesday afternoon he has paid the mall’s overdue electricity bill.

Stores at the distressed mall were warned earlier this week that Ohio Edison could shut off their power next week because of the outstanding balance.

“It’s been paid,” said Michael Kohan of Kohan Retail Investment Group,  which owns the mall in the northeast corner of Akron, on Wednesday.

Kohan said a check had been sent to the utility via FedEx.

Ohio Edison spokesman Chris Eck said Wednesday evening that “the situation has not been fully resolved.”

He said Ohio Edison has been in contact with Kohan, but could not detail discussions because of customer confidentiality.

Asked whether the bill had been partially paid, Eck declined to comment.

“As of right now, disconnection is still scheduled for Monday morning,” Eck said.

“We continue to hope for resolution before Monday’s deadline,” Eck said, adding that representatives of the utility and Kohan will continue to be in contact.

On Tuesday, Kohan said the late electric bill “was just overlooked. It was nothing to worry about.”

The letter sent from Ohio Edison to mall tenants dated April 1 said: “This notice is to inform you that you may experience an interruption of your electric service at 7:00 a.m., April 8, 2019 for an indefinite period of time as Ohio Edison has not received payment on the electric service. … Ohio Edison regrets any inconvenience this might cause.”

The Akron utility would not say how much money it is owed.

Ellen Lander Nischt, spokeswoman for the city, said Wednesday that the city has not had contact with the mall owner since this latest warning that Ohio Edison could shut off the mall’s electricity.

On Tuesday, she said this is the second time this year that the city has been notified of a pending power shutoff because of nonpayment.

Mall struggles

Chapel Hill, located next to Cuyahoga Falls and Tallmadge, opened in 1967. It was to be the first enclosed shopping mall in the region, but delays gave Summit Mall that title. Summit Mall opened in 1966.

Chapel Hill, like other malls across the country, has been hit hard by the growth in online purchases, changes in consumer shopping preferences and closings of anchor stores.

Macy's closed its Chapel Hill store in the spring of 2016, before Kohan Retail Investment Group purchased the mall for $8.6 million that year. Kohan Retail, headquartered in Great Neck, N.Y., specializes in buying distressed malls.

Then in 2017, Sears closed its store at the mall, leaving J.C. Penney's as the sole anchor. Other smaller stores also have left, leaving numerous vacancies.

As of Tuesday, there were 43 empty storefronts and 26 filled storefronts, plus food court businesses and kiosks.

News reports show several of the other 30 properties listed on the company’s website have run into recent difficulties meeting financial obligations.

Customers concerned

Meanwhile, this week’s news about the unpaid electricity bills at Chapel Hill generated lots of reaction on social media.

Fearing that Chapel Hill faces an unsure future, many people reminisced about their time spent time at the mall.

“And yet another piece of my childhood/teen years is on its way out,” Cheryle Robinson said on Facebook. “Sad.”

When she was younger, Beth Bolton would visit her grandmother at work on the weekend at the Sears in Chapel Hill during the mid-1970s.

“She was the one who called you to tell you your order was ready,” Bolton wrote on Facebook. “My mom used to take me to see you on Saturdays and when she got off work, we went to lunch.”

Perry Linaburg grew up on North Hill and remembered going to the mall around the holiday season during the 1970s.

“... Going there in the 70s especially around Christmas really helped to get in the Christmas spirit,” she said in a comment on Facebook. “[I] remember standing in a long line so my sons could get their picture with Frosty and Santa and then we would go over to Chi-Chi’s to eat. Great memories.”

Kim Milinkovich also grew up on North Hill and said Chapel Hill was the place where she bought a lot of her clothes.

“[Chapel Hill] was the hub of the shopping world,” Milinkovich wrote on Facebook. “... When the food court opened, it was a breath of fresh air. The carousel attracted young families and the place with inflatable jumpers made the mall a fun place for kids. So sad to see it dwindle.”

 

Staff writer Brandon Bounds contributed to this report. Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.