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Mall owner says he’s tackling repairs

Fire Marshal commends owner on roof repairs, but says more progress needed on removing hazardous chemicals and vehicles

By Jeff Harrison
Managing Editor

The owner of the old Heritage Park Mall is making strides to repair his property. But city officials say there is plenty of work left to do.

For months, Midwest City leaders have been pressing Ahamad Bahreini, the owner of the mall, to bring the building into compliance. After seeing little progress, the city issued 11 citations to the property owner for various code violations including storing hazardous materials and about 40 vehicles in the former mall.

Ahmad Bahreini, owner of the Heritage Park Mall, updates the Midwest City Council on progress he’s making to repair the property near Air Depot and Reno boulevards. (Staff photo by Jeff Harrison)

The mall owner delivered a progress report on the building Tuesday evening during the city council meeting. The Edmond man said he is repairing the roof and interior space and has met with a couple of possible tenants in recent weeks.

Bahreini said he is nearly finished repairing the roof in the main part of the mall. After the repairs are completed, he will have the roof replaced at the old Montgomery Ward store. He said the new roof will take about 30-45 days to complete.

Once the roof is finished, Bahreini said he will begin replacing ceiling tiles inside the building. Fire Marshall Bob Toney said the missing ceiling tiles are preventing the building’s sprinkler system from properly working.

Toney said he has not seen the inside of the mall since June, but told the council he believes Bahreini is making progress on the roof.

“A lot of the citations have not been addressed including the R22 (Freon) and a lot of things stored in the A to Z and Montgomery Ward, but based on what I’ve heard, it (the work) seems to match up,” Toney said. “And I’m pleased to hear that you’re getting a new roof for Montgomery Ward.”

Bahreini was cited by the fire marshal, code enforcement and the building inspector for violations.

The fire marshal issued citations for: not having an operable fire suppression system, failure to remove materials from the building, improper storage and safeguarding of hazardous materials. Bahreini was cited for storing materials at both the main mall building and the old Montgomery Ward store, which are considered separate properties.

The building inspector issued two citations for occupying a commercial building without a certificate of occupancy. The citations were issued for both the mall property and the former Montgomery Ward. A certificate of occupancy is required anytime there is a change in the use of a commercial building. The mall property is not zoned for storage.

Code enforcement cited the building owner for failing to repair broken glass window, wood fence, and exterior and for not painting the exterior. Bahreini fixed the maintenance issues before the court date.

Mary Ann Karns, city prosecutor, explained that Bahreini received 60 days to address a number of the issues. She said city staff has also vouched to issue additional citations if he fails to comply.

“The goal of environmental court is to bring it into compliance,” she said.

The city has also been pushing Bahreini to find new uses and tenants for mall property. The city commissioned a feasibility study for the mall property that completed in March. The study determined that mall property has potential but needs creative and careful planning to make it viable destination. Bahreini previously told the council he did not have money to redevelop the building as the study suggested.  On Tuesday, he said he’s received interest from two separate parties interested in leasing space on the front side of the mall.

The mall property is owned by three separate parties, which presents an added challenge for redevelopment. Sears and LifeChurch own property on the east and west ends of the mall. LifeChurch bought part of the mall for $1.5 million in 2007. Sears announced it plans to close the Midwest City store.

Bahreini owns the main portion of the mall. He bought the old Montgomery Ward building for $880,000 in 2004. He later bought the remaining mall property for $1.3 million in 2010.

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