By Jeff Gallatin
Demolition work began last week in the area of Westfield Great Northern Mall, where a multimillion- dollar movie theater and retail project is expected based on previous announcements.
Construction fences were placed around the areas on either side of the former food court entrance and the former location of the Harry Buffalo restaurant. Crews from the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. began the demolition work. It is the area where Westfield development officials said in late 2011 they had plans for a multiscreen movie theater complex and supporting retail stores to be completed by late 2012. That announcement came shortly after the mall had opened up its new updated food court in another wing of the mall.
Westfield Great Northern officials last week declined requests for comment on the demolition work, saying they were not in a position to comment on it yet.
Mall officials did say that the mall entrance between J.C. Penney’s and Sears currently bookended by the construction fencing will remain open through the holiday season.
Marketing Director Annie Dorsey said they were planning on placing a holiday-themed area in the old food court.
“The old food court space will be transformed into a winter wonderland of sorts and the space will host a number of wonderful and traditional holiday experiences: the wish Santa Sleigh photo opportunity for children, the mall Magical Express Train, a Gingerbread Lane display of bakery-made gingerbread houses to benefit Welcome House of Westlake with more details coming in early November,” she said.
Dorsey said the holiday area will open Nov. 17.
“It will be the holiday zone at Westfield Great Northern, so it’s good and important for shoppers to understand that the area will be open and accessible,” she said.
Although mall officials declined comment on the demolition work, records in the North Olmsted building department showed two permits were pulled for the mall. One was for demolition work at 4956 Great Northern Mall, showing a construction value of $1.4 million, and the other for electrical work at 4954 Great Northern Mall, with a construction value of $1.1 million.
North Olmsted Fire Chief Tom Klecan said mall officials had checked with the department on handling safety procedures for the demolition work area.
“We told them they have to have an exit area, which they do,” he said. “They’ve set everything up properly and are following regulations.”
Other officials said they were pleased to see the work going on.
“It’s great to see major work going on at Westfield Great Northern,” said Ashley Gay, president of the North Olmsted Chamber of Commerce. “A major project like that is good for not only the mall, but also for the city and the entire area as well. We’re all anxious to see the final results of what is going into that area.”
Kim Wenger, planning and development director for the city of North Olmsted, said she was pleased to see additional work going on at the mall.
“Whatever the end project will be, I’m sure it will be a benefit to the city,” she said.
Paul Barker, chairman of city council’s finance committee, also was happy.
“Seeing construction fences going up and demolition work being done appears to be a sign that that the theater complex is moving forward,” he said. “That’s good for the citizens and entire city of North Olmsted and for people who have wanted movies back in North Olmsted.”