BUCKHORN — Empire Columbia LP has sold the Columbia mall for $7 million to Bloomsburg real estate developer Cristian Foust, of Foust Holdings LLC.
The July 2 sale consisted of four parcels: 39.94, 48.69 (the mall), 1.26 and 2.32 acres. With the purchase, Foust now owns approximately 170 acres near the Buckhorn exit of Interstate 80.
When reached for comment Thursday evening, Foust said he could not say much about the long-term future of the 31-year-old shopping center, recently renamed Columbia Colonnade, but immediate plans may include renovating the exterior entrances and facade, repairing the parking lot, which he said is in bad shape, and constructing strip centers within the property.
“What I am hoping to do is take the mall from where it’s at right now, and take it to its highest and best use for the local community and the region,” he said. “I am thinking about repurposing it.”
Foust is also working on a proposed 84-room Hilton hotel on 57-acres next to the mall. Architects are more than 50% done with plans and engineers have started communicating with PennDOT, he said, with a goal of submitting paperwork to various agencies in August.
“For 23 years, I have built homes, townhouses and a hotel in Lewisburg by Bucknell University, but I had been wondering if I was supposed to do bigger things in life,” he said. “My wife, one day, said something about the mall and my brain clicked.”
Foust, who lives in a development he built within eyeshot of the mall, thanked God for the opportunity to purchase the shopping complex.
He added, “I just want everyone to benefit from the mall and the other land I own in Buckhorn.”
According to court records, the mall also switched hands in 1995 for $27.6 million; in 2005 for $14 million from Bay View Columbia Mall to Cedar Bloomsburg LLC; and in 2013 for $2.78 million from Cedar Bloomsburg to Empire.
Other changes to the area might be on the horizon. ALDI Inc. is in the design phase for a new store at 181 Columbia Mall Drive, the location of the former Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse.
The supermarket chain recently applied for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit and was granted in March zoning variances by the Hemlock Township Zoning Hearing Board.
Geisinger Authority revealed in a public notice that it intends to invest $90 million on property in Hemlock Township “bounded by Interstate 80, Route 42, Schoolhouse Road and Creek Road.”
A public meeting of the Columbia County Board of Commissioners is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday to address the proposed issuance of bonds and the financing of the project and three others.
The additional projects in Columbia County are:
• Geisinger-Bloomsburg Hospital campus, $6 million.
• 510 Montour Boulevard, Bloomsburg, $5 million.
• 240 Mall Boulevard, Bloomsburg, $5 million.
• 602 Honeysuckle Lane, Bloomsburg, $3 million.
The bonds are part of a larger $1 billion borrowing plan to refund a taxable loan, pay costs of issuing credit enhancement, and to acquire, construct, renovate and install capital improvements at various campuses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The plan includes $50 million for Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital in Coal Township and $10 million at 208-212 Industrial Park Road in Elysburg.