More mall concerns prompt another letter to absentee ownerPublished by on
WORTHINGTON – According to Worthington Mayor Al Oberloh, concerns about the health and safety of the Northland Mall have progressed from beyond the old K-Mart portion of the building to the commons area and throughout the building.
“The conditions of the mall have failed greatly,” Oberloh said. “Now that spring is coming, we’re very concerned about mold issues; we’re concerned about all the water on the floor. That it’s going to be a ‘slip and fall’ situation.”
Inside the mall, the steady drip, drip, drip of water can be heard as water falls from the ceiling into a variety of containers. Five-gallon pails, garbage cans and even empty coffee receptacles
catch the drops that fall. In some places, the water is dripping straight down, splashing across unprotected floors. Ceiling tiles are missing from above, and in some areas, the tiles are lying where they landed when they fell.
A senior citizen walking the mall Thursday said he was almost hit with falling ceiling tiles several days ago.
“Three tiles fell down right next to me and made quite a noise,” said the man, who preferred not to be named. “There was a lot of water on the floor.”
The man, who said he spent 33 years as a custodian for the local school district, has watched the mall deteriorate during his 5 to 6 years of mall walking.
“People keep moving out. There’s been piles of dust and dirt in the same places for weeks,” he said. “I’m almost to the point that I look forward to the mall closing.”
Like others, the man questioned why the owner has allowed the mall to fall into such disrepair. He also wondered why the owner can continue to own and buy other malls without fixing the Northland Mall.
The city, however, does not have a way to force a business owner to change his property until it because a health or safety issue. According to Worthington Building Official Armand Eshleman, that time has arrived. He and Brad Chapulis, Worthington Director of Community/Economic Development, walked the mall several weeks ago, which is what prompted city action.
“The city has to be proactive,” Oberloh said. “We can’t allow something that is in that kind of condition to continue to stay open – for the health and safety of the people who live here and use it.”
Another letter has been sent to mall owner Mike Kohen, letting him know he has 30 days to file an abatement plan with the city of Worthington. He is ordered to repair, rehabilitate, demolish or remove the unsafe conditions. Failure to comply, the letter states, will result with the matter being forwarded to the city attorney for action.
The letter is similar to one that was sent to Kohen regarding the K-Mart portion of the mall. Kohen never responded to that letter, and the matter has since moved to the courts.
The city is funding a study to determine of that section of the mall can be repaired or must be demolished. Any cost associated with doing so would be charged back to Kohen on his property taxes, but that isn’t a very frightening threat to a building owner that hasn’t paid his taxes on the building for over a year.
“We’re moving forward,” Oberloh said. “We’re not doing it to be a thorn in his side – we’re doing it strictly for health and safety issues.”
The letter states the lack of maintenance has resulted in roofing membrane failure and water intrusion, which is obvious to anyone who enters the mall. The roof coverings are saturated, suspended ceiling tiles are compromised, and the HVAC systems in some public areas are non-functional.
Eshleman said he and others were up on the roof during the K-Mart inspection, and pieces were missing from heat exchangers. The temperature in the mall on Thursday mid-morning was 58 degrees. The mall walker said he stops each day while walking to check the digital thermostat on the wall in a main hallway. Some days, he said, the temperature was as low as 52 degrees.
According to the letter sent to Kohen, the lack of ventilation, high levels of humidity and bulk water entering the building may be leading to an unhealthy environment. It is hard to disagree when large garbage cans half full of dirty, yellowing water can be observed by anyone who walks by. Moving forward is not an easy process.
Kohen, whose real name is Mehran Kohansieh, has hidden behind multiple aliases and has more than a handful of judgments against him in other states. Phone calls to Kohen and the Northland Mall management have not been returned.