Medina shoppers, mayor concerned after Old Navy store closes and former Kmart site remains vacant

MEDINA, Ohio - The Old Navy store on North Court Street in Medina is closing its doors on Friday and many shoppers are surprised the family clothing business is setting sail.

"It's pretty sad. I come here pretty regularly. I have three children, said Leslie Krajewski of Granger Township.

"I think it's too bad, too bad for the shopping area for heaven's sake," said Medina resident Beth Findura, who shops at the store for her grandchildren.

Mayor Dennis Hanwell said Old Navy's closure, coupled with Kmart shutting its doors in 2012, creates a concern to keep the shopping plaza thriving.

"Medina, although it was a profitable store for them, just doesn't equate with the other two Old Navy stores (in Strongsville and Fairlawn). It was just a business decision to put their resources where they're making more profit," Hanwell said.

The mayor said 35 people work at the Medina store. It's not clear if those employees will lose their jobs or be relocated to other stores.

Old Navy, owned by Gap Inc., did not respond to an email requesting comment on the closure.

City leaders have felt like their hands are tied since the 160,000-square-foot former Kmart store went dark.

Hanwell said Benderson Development Co., based out of Buffalo, N.Y., owns the old Kmart site and continues to collect $70,000 checks every month from Kmart on a lease that still has six or seven years left on it. Put a different way, Benderson can receive about $6 million even if the property sits vacant.

"If you're getting the rent and not having to put any work or maintenance or upkeep into the building, and you're just cashing the checks, is there really much of an incentive to fill the store?" Hanwell said.

The mayor explained that possible leads for the site, including Lowe's and Menards, have been sent to Benderson, but Hanwell feels like the suggestions are falling on deaf ears and questions whether the property is even listed.

"It's kind of like dealing with the federal government where we send them information, but we're not hearing much back."

Most of the other properties at the shopping center, including Marshall's and Bath and Body Works, are owned by Surrey Equities out of New York City.

Ed Silvera, president of the company, said Kmart's closing has hurt his business terribly and believes Old Navy's decision to leave is partly because a new anchor store has not moved into the property.

"There is a monster hold in the middle of my shopping center. We're sending him (Benderson) leads. It's a lot more complicated than, 'Hey, let's find a 150,000-thousand-square-foot tenant'," Silvera said.

Meanwhile, Hanwell said the city is working diligently to find opportunities to fill the vacancies and has asked a local real estate group to work with Benderson.

At this point, he's not worried that other businesses will bolt from the shopping plaza, but he's guarded.

"They can survive for a while, but the sooner we can resolve that, the better, so I would say it is relatively urgent," Hanwell said.

Calls from NewsChannel5 to Benderson were not returned on Friday.

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