It seems that I have been writing a lot about the East side of Youngstown of late. I’m back there this week because it was fifty years ago this week that the McGuffey Mall had its grand opening. There was no big fanfare but simply a sparkling new shopping mall covering over one of the first plazas in the Youngstown area and adding 10,000 square feet of retail space.
In 1954, William Cafaro built one of his first shopping centers at the intersection of McGuffey Road and North Garland. It was a location that was special to Cafaro, who grew up on the East side. They added the Garland Plaza in 1960. For many years the plazas were a thriving shopping location but by the early 1970’s, a number of tenants were leaving at the end of their leases for the new malls. Eastwood Mall, another Cafaro property, opened in 1969 and Southern Park Mall, operated by the DeBartolo Corporation, opened in 1970.
The Cafaro firm took an unusual step that reflected their ties to the area. They admitted that they could have signed a few leases and sold off the property. Instead, they made a major investment, enclosing the old retail space and adding additional retail space. They worked with the community to gain their buy-in and in the fall of 1972 opened a glittering new space at the site of the nearly 20 year-old plaza.
This move certainly extended the life of shopping in this area. Over the years shops, banks, drug stores, supermarkets, a bowling alley, and a post office occupied the site. But by the early 2000’s, the site was clearly struggling. In a 2007 video of low video quality, it shows only four open businesses that I can see, anchored by a Family Dollar and a National City Bank. Much of the retailed space was closed off.
The Garland Plaza was occupied by Mahoning County Department of Job & Family Services from 1988 until 2007. In 2012, the Cafaro firm decided to sell both the mall and the plaza. On October 25, 2013, it was acquired by Highway Contracting of Boardman, a demolition contractor, who proceeded with demolition beginning in December, completing it in 2014.
The site has been idle since, but 2022 brought news that the Western Reserve Port Authority (WRPA) planned to acquire the site for $162,250. They had no immediate plans for the property but Anthony Trevena, representing WRPA, observes that the nearby freeway access makes it a desirable location for redevelopment. Viewing the site on Google street view reveals a significant amount of workers and vehicles on the site, suggesting the first steps of preparing the location for redevelopment.
Nothing is firm yet, but this would be a shot in the arm for the area, recalling the years where this was a center of bustling commercial activity. That might be the best news this area has had in fifty years.
To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!