More woes for Northland Mall site (update)Published by on
WORTHINGTON – The trials and tribulations of Worthington’s Northland Mall continue, with a drug bust, possible squatters and now a notice from the City of Worthington that says the old Kmart facility is unsafe to occupy.
Signs at the front entrance to the old Kmart and what was once an auto repair section of the store bear a warning that bars entrance, stating the facility is unsafe to occupy. That warning does not extend to the main part of the mall that contains a small handful of businesses.
According to city building official Armand Eshleman, the abandoned store is “not a healthy environment.”
“I was called out there by the police department,” Eshleman said. “I was inside the building, saw damage and water on the floor - probably not a real healthy environment for anyone to be in. There were just a few other things that made it unsafe for people to use it.”
The police got involved in the situation at the mall when agents with the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force saw a man and woman leaving the maintenance office, according to a criminal complaint filed in Nobles County District Court. They were later identified as Rachel Flora and Duane Gleason, both 47 and both of Worthington.
The agents spoke with the two suspects, noting they seemed to be avoiding contact. Gleason told an agent he was not renting the building, and that he, Victor Flora and others were storing some items in the building as the owner was not paying them for janitorial work. Later, he said they were renting the space. The owner of the mall, Mike Kohan of New York, gave permission for the agents to search the former Kmart and maintenance shop.
While searching a vehicle Rachel Flora was in and the shop, authorities found more than 6 grams of methamphetamine.
A door on the office of the mall states Victor Flora is the manager. He agreed to meet with agents at the mall, and walked with them through the vacant stores and storage areas. Gleason, who had left the scene, was found hiding in a loft located in the former Sterling Drug store. He and Rachel Flora were arrested.
The windows of the former Kmart are opaqued, but a glance through holes shows a building covered with garbage and ceiling tiles that have fallen to the floor. Several vehicles are inside the building. From the inside of the mall, the hallway that leads to the abandoned Kmart has ceiling tiles hanging from above or missing entirely. One area is covered with a tarp, and water drips down to the floor.
According to Eshleman, a letter has been sent to Kohan and he has been in contact by phone. A quick search of the Internet turns up numerous articles from across the country citing instances of malls owned by Kohan plagued by neglect and management issues, including utilities shut off due to lack of payment in several locations. Kohan purchased the Northland Mall in 2008 for $1.8 million. In May 2010, the Northland Mall was listed on the webiste of Bull Realty, offering an opportunity that "offers an investor an above-market return." Offered at $2.8 million, the site claims the mall was 66 percent occupied at the time.