by Christian Morrow
Courier Staff writer
Unless something changes in the next 10 days or so, the former East Hills Mall site, owned by Petra International Ministries development arm Operation Nehemiah, will be sold at Sheriff’s Sale Feb. 4.
“As of right now, all the legal requirements have been met and it’s ready to go,” said Sgt. Richard Fersch of the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office. “But that’s not etched in stone. There are remedies available. They could get a court order to postpone the sale. Operation Nehemiah has options.”
The 44-acre property that straddles the municipalities of Penn Hills, Wilkinsburg and Pittsburgh, was, at different times during the last decade, to have been developed into a Walmart, a Kmart Superstore and a Lowes. But all of those plans fell through.
The  $2,191,864.74 debt is the result of a mortgage taken out with First Commonwealth Bank, shortly after the Lowes project failed to go forward.
After the fatal shooting of two police officers, business at the mall quickly disappeared. The site had been vacant since 1980.
Petra purchased the former Zayres department store building on the property in 1999 to house its church. It is not part of the surround property that is scheduled for auction.  Allegheny County spent millions on demolition, in anticipation of redevelopment but the site remains empty save for the church.
Petra Administrative Elder James Balthrop said they are people of faith and believe they will have a development deal in place before the sale. “We are not going to seek any postponement or delay,” he said. “We believe things will work out in our favor.”
(Send comments to cmorrow@new­pittsburgh­

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