The impending closure of the last anchor store at Chapel Hill Mall could have mixed impact for the rest of the shopping center as well as the stores nearby.

Only one of the baby blue-painted escalators at JCPenney is still functioning. Since the holiday shopping season, the shelves have been looking sparse and there are temporary walls set up to move everything inward, decreasing what would have been empty floor space. Penney’s was one of the original anchors at Chapel Hill, and it’s now the last one standing – until it closes in April.

University of Akron Economics Professor Amanda Weinstein says it’s unlikely Chapel Hill can stay open without any anchors. But Penney’s closure could provide a boost to neighboring Cuyahoga Falls.

“So this could drive some of the foot traffic that was remaining at that mall to go elsewhere, whether it’s just Target or their new downtown development.”

“We simply overbuilt malls. We built too much retail space per-person in the U.S. And we built up this mall-retail bubble. And what we’re seeing is that bubble bursting. And not every mall is going to survive.”

Chapel Hill is at about 50 percent occupancy. Weinstein says possible re-uses for the property could include self-storage units (Storage for America has opened a facility in the old Macy's), apartments, or even a senior health and wellness facility.

Chapel Hill has faced threatened water and power shut-offs in recent months due to unpaid bills. Summit County began foreclosure proceedings this month. Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan says he’s open to working with the mall’s owner, Kohan Retail Investment Group of Great Neck, NY, to redevelop the property, or bring in new tenants.

After avoiding a water disconnection this month, Chapel Hill Mall is now facing a possible power shut down if its bill isn’t paid by January 20th. Ohio Edison issued the notice to mall tenants.

About half the stores are occupied at the mall, where the sole anchor tenant remaining is JCPenney.  It continues to attract customers like Kent State student Hannah Kurtz.

“I don’t know why [the mall] is going out of business.  Maybe it’s not in the best area?  I don’t know [maybe] they could remodel it and make it something else? I’m not sure.”

Officials in Summit County’s Fiscal Office say the county has started foreclosure proceedings against the owners of Chapel Hill Mall for delinquent taxes and unpaid sewer bills.

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Akron’s Chapel Hill Mall came perilously close to closing its doors Friday over a delinquent water and sewer bill. 

The city says its Office of Integrated Development gave the mall’s owner, New York-based Kohan Retail Investment Group, until 9:30 Friday morning to make a payment or face closure.

Black Friday sales start today -- but at least one expert says they may not be exciting enough anymore for shoppers to head out to brick-and-mortar retailers.

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