After acquiring the Oakdale Mall earlier this year, Spark JC LLC has commenced renovations to the property.
Spark JC, the company that operates the renamed ‘”Oakdale Commons,” was given a budget of over $100 million to finance different development projects through 2025. The end goal is to revitalize the property, according to Marc Newman, co-founder of Spark JC. The revitalization includes the addition of a Panera Bread and Chipotle, as well as a Dick’s House of Sport — an extension of the Dick’s Sporting Goods store that includes a batting cage and a rock wall to allow product testing on-site. A parking lot and general site improvements will also be included, with the goal of being finished in the fall of 2023 and spring of 2024. Construction has already commenced, and the establishments are expected to all open by fall 2023.
After the Oakdale Mall faced foreclosure in 2019, Spark JC bought the property with plans to facilitate new businesses, create jobs and restore the popularity of the space. The company received payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) funding approved by the Broome County industrial development organization. Martin Meaney, the mayor of Johnson City, said people may have doubts about this process, but encouraged community members to consider the end goal of the project.
“Without PILOTs, development is awfully hard and if we don’t have people coming in who are looking to develop in our area, buildings sit idle,” Meaney said.
Newman emphasized the significance of converting what was the former Macy’s space into a Dick’s House of Sport. At 140,000 square feet, it will be Dick’s Sporting Goods’ largest store yet, located in the southernmost portion of the mall. In addition to the batting cage and climbing wall, the storefront will also house a turf field and an outdoor track that has the ability to turn into an ice skating rink come winter.
Meaney also discussed the significance of Dick’s choosing to build its largest storefront in Johnson City.
“Dick’s started here,” Meaney said. “Store number 001 is on Court Street, so it’s kind of nice to see them stay rooted where they were founded.”
Newman outlined the projected economic benefits the project will bring to the community, including the creation of new jobs and the increase in the sales tax base that Spark JC expects to see in the next few years. Newman also explained his belief that the development of the mall will be beneficial for other local businesses throughout Johnson City.
“Outside of the mall, they may decide to go shopping at Wegmans or Weis, or have dinner at one of the local restaurants,” said Newman. “This gateway site is just key to the whole redevelopment.”
Newman and Meaney expressed similar sentiment, and said that the name change and rebranding of the mall is multi-use, and will revitalize the old mall into a space that will not be solely retail.
“It’s going to make it a destination again,” Meaney said. “It’s not going to be someplace where people are just going to zip in, grab an article of clothing and grab a burger. It’s going to bring people in and they’re going to want to stay, you know?”
Newman said these tenants are the beginning of an extensive list of businesses that Oakdale Commons hopes to welcome to Johnson City. Newman said he sees the project as a commitment to the community.
Many BU students said they’re looking forward to the remodeling of the mall. Jolie Kwok, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law, said she thinks the renovations are long-overdue.
“It is no secret that Binghamton lacks entertainment hubs and it definitely would be nice to have more activities to do on the weekends besides romanticizing a Target run,” Kwok wrote in an email. “Glad to see that in a year, it will just be a bus ride away.”
Isaac Mak, a freshman majoring in computer engineering, expressed excitement to see the mall take on a new identity, especially with the addition of Dick’s House of Sport. Mak described how it reminded him of some other malls across the country that market attractions to their customers, in addition to retailers and restaurants.
“I think that mall would be pretty cool,” said Mak. “It’s like the American Dream mall in New Jersey, and I think that would be pretty cool here upstate.”