Relief at the wrecking ball
The news in Saturday’s Observer-Reporter that abandoned stores at the woebegone Foundry shopping complex in South Strabane Township are being torn down is a reason for relief, if not celebration.
It opens the possibility that, at last, some of the best real estate on the Route 19 corridor just outside Washington will be a source of traffic and commerce and not lawsuits and regrets.
The saga of The Foundry combines shoddy management with wretched luck. In December 2007, the developer of the complex, Indianapolis-based Premier Properties, announced with much fanfare that it had 20 leases in hand from retailers who wanted to move in to the spiffy, 575,000 square-foot shopping center. But, within just six months, Premier was filing for bankruptcy, its founder and chief executive was facing theft and fraud charges and three retailers that had arrived were forced to retreat because subsidence behind a retaining wall was causing cracks in the floors and walls of the structure, rendering it uninhabitable.
And all this happened just as the economy was tanking, and other developers who might have swooped in were closing their pocketbooks and high-profile national retailers were putting their expansion blueprints on the shelf.
If there is a bright spot in this whole story, it’s that two chain restaurants, Max & Erma’s and Olive Garden, have managed to thrive on the outer edges of The Foundry, despite there being no immediately adjacent retail outlets to serve as a draw.
The fact that the wrecking ball is swinging at the Foundry doesn’t mean that retailers will be moving in next week, or even next year. But it’s a welcome indication that the stalemate that made the stillborn shopping center into a forlorn ghost town is finally being resolved.
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