Gary Nelson's Commentary

User submitted August 21, 2009

Pittsburgh Mills was developed by the Mills Corporation as a shopping mall featuring full-price retailers and department stores Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears and Dick’s Sporting Goods and an adjacent big box shopping district featuring such names as Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Lowe’s and Ross Dress for Less. It would be the first departure for the Mills, which had developed outlet centers in other parts of the country. The mall was built on what was previously open farmland. It is located in Frazer Township, just outside of Tarentum off of U.S. Route 28. The Pennsylvania Turnpike is located a few miles south.

When it first opened in July 2005, the mall section, called the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills, featured over 150 shops, restaurants and a large food court. Tenants such as American Eagle Outfitters to Pac Sun, Aeropostale to Forever 21 and so on were among some of the retailers. These shops would be located within distinctive “neighborhoods” that pays homage to the Pittsburgh region. It would also differ from other malls in the area in that it offered numerous entertainment offerings for every age and taste. Attractions included Lucky Strike Lanes, an upscale bowling alley, the Putting Edge glow-in-the-dark mini golf, a Tilt arcade and the Cinemark megaplex cinema featuring an IMAX theater. A proposed NASCAR Speedpark also planned to open at the mall, although it was scrapped prior to the mall’s grand opening, despite “Coming Soon” signs posted for months after the mall’s opening.

Even though the big box section, called the Village at Pittsburgh Mills, was instantaneously successful, the Galleria portion would start facing a series of problems, first of all with its owner, the Mills Corporation. Mills faced a series of financial problems prior to the development of Pittsburgh Mills, and in addition to management misconduct within the company, it was acquired by Simon Property Group in 2007, where as Pittsburgh Mills was sold to Zamias Services, a mall developer and minority owner based in nearby Johnstown. The second problem was within the mall itself. Although the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills is a relatively new mall, it also faced numerous vacancies, some which had never been filled since the mall first opened. By August 2006, Lucky Strike Lanes announced that it would close due to dwindling traffic. It would be divided into two restaurants shortly thereafter, although one of the restaurants have closed recently and the other one has been downgraded into a bar. Linens ’n Things, another mall anchor, also closed in the summer of 2008 as part of a restructuring. Some tenants have closed as well, including G by Guess, Forever 21, Brooks Brothers 346, Corningware Factory Store, Music For A Song, among other tenants. The mall’s occupancy rate currently stands at 75 to 80 percent.

Zamias currently has a few ideas that it plans to put into action at the Galleria. One of these plans is to convert a large portion of inline retail space into an ITT Technical Institute, which is expected to relocate from nearby Monroeville. Other ideas that have been announced in the past include an indoor water park in the SportStreet neighborhood and a department store anchor such as Boscov’s to be built in the space that was supposed to be occupied by NASCAR Speedpark.

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