A fire that sent flames through the roof at Eastern Hills Mall on Monday night “looked worse than it was,” according to Chuck Breidenbach, managing director of retail properties at Mountain Development Corp., which co-owns the mall with Uniland Development.
The fire broke out in the former Bon-Ton building, which is being renovated by Raymour & Flanigan for a new store. Workers on the roof earlier in the day had been using a cutting torch, and a piece of plywood apparently had been left smoldering unnoticed, Breidenbach said.
The fire was extinguished at around 11 p.m. by Harris Hill Volunteer Fire Co. The building was empty with no one inside, and no injuries were reported. The fire affected an area roughly 15 feet by 15 feet in size, and didn't disturb any other areas of the mall with smoke, water or debris.
Merchants in the mall opened on time Tuesday morning as usual.
"It was almost a nonevent," Breidenbach said.
Eastern Hills owns the building, which is attached to the mall. The mall purchased the building, which had belonged to the now-defunct Bon-Ton, when the bankrupt department store's assets were liquidated.
Raymour & Flanigan had expected to open Sept. 1. The furniture retailer could not be reached for comment, but Breidenbach said he didn't expect the fire to delay the store's opening.
So the Eastern hills mall is on fire. pic.twitter.com/Y50gZ7eelW
— Kelsey 😛 (@KelseyTeeter) July 9, 2019
The fire also isn't expected to affect larger ongoing projects at the mall.
The Eastern Hills Mall is poised to undergo a major redevelopment into a town center – a sprawling town-within-a-town featuring retail, residential and commercial space; along with open green community areas.
The mall is in the master planning phase, so very little has been determined. But it is likely the Raymour & Flanigan store will remain in the current building as the mall changes shape around it.
"They have a long-term lease with us and are making a significant investment," Breidenbach said.
Raymour & Flanigan is adding show windows on the ground floor of the building and is overhauling the building's interior, he said.
Architect firm Gensler is working with Uniland and Mountain on the master plan concept, which it hopes to complete this fall. Until then, most everything about the design is up in the air.
"The initial concept plan will be more 'We envision residential here, commercial space here, retail here,' " said Jill Pawlik, a Uniland spokesperson.
Specifics and tenant announcements will come later.
"We have 100 acres," Pawlik said. "The first pass is going to be more about uses, access to and from the site, how it affects the streets, the neighborhoods, the surrounding areas."
Both the Town of Clarence and Uniland will hold public meetings to garner feedback about the mall's plans once the concept is unveiled.