MUHLENBERG TWP., Pa. - Money troubles are forcing the sale of the Fairgrounds Square Mall in Muhlenberg Twp., Berks Co.
The mall's owners owe The Bank of New York Mellon Trust Company more than $44 million in mortgage payments and interest, according to federal court documents.
U.S. Marshals are scheduled to sell the mall in March as part of the foreclosure proceedings initiated by the bank last March.
Now, store owners are concerned they may be pushed out.
"I'm worried because I came here with a lot of hopes and dreams," said Annie Aponte, who owns "Hope, Beauty & Style" in the mall.
The paint is still fresh on the bright walls inside Aponte's salon. She opened her business in the mall only nine months ago. She said business has been slow, and now with money woes forcing the sale of the mall, she's concerned about the future of her business.
"We're sad because you never know what's going to happen. There's big companies here, and a lot of people depend on having a job here," said Aponte.
"I hope it still stays around. I hope the stores improve," said Lisa Wrobel, a shopper who just found out about the sale.
"This is one of my favorite stores I come to all the time when I come home," said Jen Ahrens, who grew up shopping at Fairgrounds. "I love their stuff here, and I love their clothes. Hopefully, it doesn't change."
The mall has been a fixture in Muhlenberg Township since it opened in 1980. The mall is a significant taxpayer, and the sale will likely have no impact on tenants, said township officials.
"We're hoping that a new company coming in will have better financing and be able to do some upgrades that attracts more business into the mall," said Steve Landes, Muhlenberg Township manager.
The auction is set for March 7 in Philadelphia. Richard O'Halloran, the attorney for the bank told 69 News the building will likely stay a mall after the sale.
An employee in the mall office told 69 News last Friday that she had no knowledge of the foreclosure proceedings or the impending sale but that she would pass along a message to the mall's management.
The mall's owner, GP-Fairgrounds Square, LP, has not returned 69 News' calls for comment over the past couple days.
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