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DeWitt: Shoppingtown expansion postponed

Plans to transform Shoppingtown Mall into a hybrid shopping center have been postponed.

Al Lipsy, Shoppingtown's property manager, said the primary reasons for the delay are:

The lengthy process through which the project must be approved;

Awaiting approval from the state Department of Transportation for a new entryway from Erie Boulevard, and

The desire to give prospective tenants more time to relocate to the mall.

"We identified that the process typically takes 10 to 12 months," Lipsy said. "We're still within that time factor, but we're also now coming up on holiday season."

The mall's management team is balancing the three elements in order to complete the project they way it is intended.

"With that in mind, our focus with this project has not changed," Lipsy said. "Our desire and commitment to this project has not changed, but the time has shifted."

Instead of a 2007 groundbreaking ceremony, demolition is now planned to begin in 2008 with a grand opening set for 2009.

In response to a report in the Post-Standard that implied the delay was in part "to capitalize on the parking hassles caused by the expansion of Carousel Center," Lipsy said the shift in its timetable wasn't planned that way. The expansion project had no bearing on Shoppingtown's plans, even though its timing will most likely have a positive impact on the mall's business.

"We certainly recognize the fact that we're going to be more convenient to the holiday season than they are," Lipsy said. "That's just a matter of fact. We're going to do what we know is the right thing to do for Shoppingtown. It's going to be done on our timetable regardless of what other developers do in this market."

In the meantime, Chrissy Hebert, specialty leasing manager, is working to secure specialty leases to fill the mostly empty wing between Sears and Dick's Sporting Goods. That wing is part of the first phase of renovations, eventually creating an outdoor shopping atmosphere with new retailers and restaurants.

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