"I am determined to make it thrive."
That is what the new owner of the Mall at Steamtown is saying just one day after officially buying the Scranton landmark.
As Eyewitness News reported Monday night, Lackawanna County developer John Basalyga bought the struggling mall after being the high bidder at an online auction.
In a new statement released Tuesday, Basalyga says he will work hard to make the mall successful by doing what he has done in his other businesses.
He appears to be wasting no time in getting started either.
Basalyga was spotted in the mall, touring the property and talking with shoppers and mall employees just after 5:00 PM Tuesday afternoon.
After hearing that the new owner is committed to keeping "retail" shops in the mall, many shoppers were happy on Tuesday.
"I don't drive. I don't have a car and the buses, where they go, it's sometimes hard to get around," shopper Margaret Sohns of Scranton said.
After also hearing the new owner John Basalyga is just 36-years-old, others were also hopeful given the size and scope of the project that lies ahead.
"It's massive. The more power to him for doing this!" Albert Fereck of Pittston said.
At the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, president Bob Durkin spoke briefly with Basalyga on Monday.
Durkin pledged his organization as a partner in the mall's future, given the developers track record and commitment to northeastern Pennsylvania.
"We think it's going to take some creativity to bring that property back to some form of value for the downtown and for the entire community," Durkin said.
Architect Michele Dempsey has spent the last three years dreaming about what the mall could become.
She says it is clear the mall cannot survive on retail shops alone and is hoping that given Basalyga's experience in residential and commercial developments, he will consider the possibility of office space and even residential living at the mall site.
"I'm glad he's young because I think this is a long term commitment and it's going to take time to do it right and ultimately if it's done right, it's going to be one of the best things to ever happen to the downtown," Dempsey said.
Over the last few months several ideas for what to do with the mall have surfaced.
Now that we know "who" the owner of the mall is, city leaders say a major roadblock has been cleared.
"Now we can start to bring some of those creative ideas to the table, share them with John Basalyga and his team," Durkin said.
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