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Success has eluded The Summit mall

   Questions about the financial health of The Summit mall, which officials said Tuesday would close June 6, surfaced on numerous occasions for at least the past decade.

   Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland divested itself of the property after Jenss, one of the mall's three original anchor stores, announced it was moving out in 1998.

   Forest City then sold its $33 million mortgage to Connecticut General Life Insurance, whose investment division said its goal was to sell the property.

   In December 1999, the mall's property assessment dropped to $13.5 million.

   In 2000, Haywood Whichard, a North Carolina real estate investor bought the mall for $3.3 million.

   Tom Dombrowski, a businessman from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., gained ownership of the mall in 2001.

   After a situation Dombrowski described as getting "caught in the middle" of complicated legal wrangling, Jim Anthony, and Oberlin Plaza One, took over the mortgage from Dombrowski in June 2002.

   In 2003, a group of local investors -- including construction company owner Samuel J. Savarino, Toronto businessman Howard Hurst and Paula K. Sterben -- were said to be interested in purchasing the mall. At the time, the facility was about 70 percent vacant, and was expected to sell for less than $5 million, excluding back taxes.

   That transaction was never finalized.

   In January 2005, Anthony told The Buffalo News his company had paid $800,000 in back taxes since June 2004.

   In December 2005, the county IDA granted current mall ownership $2 million in tax breaks. The company was granted the relief despite the agency's policy of not granting financial concessions to retail establishments.

   At the time, the deal called for full relief from mortgage, property and sales tax for the first five years of a planned $15 million renovation. Mall owners at the time said The Summit would be come a year-round tourist attraction with the addition of a Christmas Wonderland, a fantasy attraction.

   Christmas Wonderland opened in November 2005, and closed more than three years ago.

   Considering the troubles several owners have faced in the recent past, is there a winning formula that could bring The Summit success?

   - Aaron Besecker

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