Katherine Mansfield/Observer-Reporter

A vacant property between the new Prime Collision Center and a strip mall anchored by Aspen Dental along Route 19 in South Strabane Township was sold last week.

No, Washington Mall has NOT been sold, according an individual directly involved with the property.

A real estate transaction in the Observer-Reporter’s Sunday edition said TWAS Properties LLC purchased a property at 370-380 Washington Road, South Strabane Township, from Washington Mall JCP Assoc. LP for $3 million.

That tract, however, does not include the mostly shuttered mall, said Ed Morascyzk, senior partner of the Washington law firm Morascyzk, Stopperich & Associates. He was emphatic on that, adding “that is absolutely not” the Washington Mall site.

Morascyzk read the parcel number of the sold property over the phone, saying the land is about a mile from the mall and on the opposite side of Route 19 (Washington Road), near the Trinity Point shopping complex.

He said the tract is likely a vacant property near Walmart Supercenter – between Prime Collision Center, which is being built on the location of the former Route 19 Bowling Center, and a strip mall anchored by Aspen Dental.

Morascyzk said a name similar to that of the mall was used in the transaction.

Pittsburgh-based Oxford Development Co. manages the Washington Mall complex, about 100 yards from the Washington city line off Oak Spring Road. An Oxford official could not be reached for comment. TWAS Properties and Washington Mall JCP Assoc. could not be reached either.

Morascyzk said the mall property is owned by “a number of people individually” – tenants in common. He said the site is “a wonderful piece of property,” sitting in a location that is easily accessible from all directions: near the nexus of Interstates 70 and 79 and Route 19.

Washington Mall’s halcyon days are long past, but there was a time when halcyon could have been spelled all upper case. It opened to rave reviews on Oct. 17, 1968, at a time when malls were becoming a national rage.

The large retail destination was a novelty, a curiosity among locals from the start. It was a completely enclosed, air-conditioned complex with 375,000 square feet of floor space and a $6 million price tag.

One individual, who got a “sneak peak” at the mall before it launched, told the O-R that “it’s very handsome on the outside, but on the inside … well. It’s simply breathtaking.”

Built over the course of a year on a 40-acre tract, the new mall launched at full occupancy – “41 national, regional and local tenants signed to long-term leases,” as the O-R reported 54 years ago.

J.C. Penney Co. was the major anchor, a three-story, 140,000-square-foot, full-line department store plus separate auto center. That was 12 times the space JCP had at its store on North Main Street in Washington, which shuttered with the mall’s arrival – one of several city businesses to meet that fate.

G.C. Murphy, a popular regional retailer, was second in size at 30,000 square feet.

A 12-member ownership team, all from Washington County, oversaw development of the mall on a former cornfield, and it was outstanding in its field for many years. The past two decades, however, have not been as kind.

Competition ramped up in the late 1990s, when two large shopping centers opened less than two miles away along Route 19 – Strabane Square and Trinity Point. Washington Mall was already vying with nearby Franklin Mall, which opened in 1969 and changed its name to Washington Crown Center in 1999.

Washington Mall also has not aged well. The facility is crumbling and is mostly abandoned. Once-revered Penney’s reeked of mold when the company closed it in a corporate downsizing in May 2014. Toys R Us shut down in 2018.

Three businesses are operating there: Harbor Freight, Grand China Buffet & Grill and Staples.

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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