- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—A Roaring Brook Twp. real estate developer and commercial roofer with a record of reviving high-profile run-down properties across the county is the new owner of the Mall at Steamtown.

John Basalyga, 36, closed on the deal Monday, paying the mall’s owner, LNR Partners, a total of $5.512 million, according to a news release issued by his spokesman. The amount represents his auction bid last month of $5.25 million plus a 5 percent buyer’s premium.

Efforts to interview Mr. Basalyga were redirected to a spokesman, Joe Gibbons, whose news release quoted Mr. Basalyga. Mr. Gibbons said the new mall owner was not prepared yet to speak publicly.

“The Mall at Steamtown is one of the most significant pieces of commercial real estate in Northeastern Pennsylvania and a landmark in downtown Scranton,” Mr. Basalyga said in the news release. “I am excited and honored to be involved in its future.”

Mr. Basalyga gave no indication of his plans for the mall. He noted Kay Jewelers will leave the mall at the end of its lease, and said he was aware of that before bidding.

“The last four weeks have been consumed by the complex details of the purchase,” Mr. Basalyga said in the release. “Now begins the work of getting our arms around the business.”

A 1997 North Pocono High School graduate, Mr. Basalyga owns Eastern Roofing Systems Inc., a company that installs roofs on commercial and industrial buildings in 12 states. He buys real estate through his companies JBAS Realty LLC and JBAS Holdings.

In the last few years, Mr. Basalyga has bought the former Olyphant Silk Co. and converted it into the North Valley Lofts, a building of one- and two-bedroom apartments and lofts in Olyphant, revamped the Olde Brook Inn in Spring Brook Twp. into a restaurant and bar and converted a former textile factory in Dickson City into luxury loft apartments.

Together with Art Russo, a Scranton building contractor and downtown apartment developer, Mr. Basalyga last August bought the vacant Daron Northeast plant in Scranton’s Green Ridge section. Mr. Russo declined comment Monday.

The sale ends a tumultuous two-year period for the almost 559,000-square-foot mall, which struggled for years with the loss of a major department store anchor, the Bon-Ton, and numerous smaller stores.

Steamtown Mall Partners LP, which included department store chain-owner Al Boscov, defaulted on an overdue payment of more than $37.1 million in March 2014.

Last July, the mortgage holder, LNR Partners of Miami, Florida, bought the mall at a sheriff’s sale for taxes and other costs when no one met the minimum asking price of $37.3 million.

Mr. Basalyga’s companies employ more than 230.

Efforts to reach officials at Boscov’s department store chain, which is the mall’s sole anchor, were unsuccessful.

Dalton-based architect Joe DeScipio has worked with Mr. Basalyga on several projects converting old industrial buildings into apartments.

He characterized Mr. Basalyga as a hard worker and good businessman and thinks he is the right person to take on the challenge of the Mall at Steamtown.

While the mall is a different building type from what Mr. Basalyga typical takes on as a developer, that outside perspective will be valuable.

“John is not a retail developer and that may help him because he has the ability to approach it from another direction,” said Mr. DeScipio, who noted he has not spoken with Mr. Basalyga about the mall. “He will be open to trying something new.”

Robert Durkin, president of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, was pleased to hear the mall’s ownership would remain local and knew Mr. Basalyga as someone with a good reputation.

“He’s taken Eastern Roofing to a new level,” Mr. Durkin said. “I think it’s great. We know it’s someone who’s local and cares about the area and not just someone who wants to buy it and flip it.”

Contact the writer: [email protected]

John Basalyga

Age: 36

Education: North Pocono High School, class of 1997

Companies: Eastern Roofing Systems Inc., JBAS

Realty LLC, JBAS Holdings

Employs: 230-plus people

Projects: Converted former Olyphant Silk Co. and a Dickson City textile company to loft apartments; renovated Spring Brook Twp.’s Olde Brook Inn into restaurant/bar.

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(c)2015 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.)

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