Luxury car biz may park at Great Northern Mall

Ohio's last full-service Sears store may be repurposed as a luxury car dealership, service center and headquarters for the Rafih Auto Group.

Closed since the summer of 2020, Ohio’s last full-service Sears store was purchased recently by Rafih Auto Group for redevelopment as a luxury car dealership, service center and Ohio headquarters (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

Closed Sears to be repurposed as Rafih showroom, HQ

A Canadian luxury auto dealer hopes to consolidate its local dealerships, service center, Ohio offices and hundreds of jobs at a new $60 million development at Great Northern Mall in North Olmsted. While there’s still a few steps to go through before the project is a reality, the dealer has already acquired the property in this western Cleveland suburb necessary to carry it out, according to public records and sources familiar with the project.

The dealer is the Rafih Automotive Group of Windsor, Ontario. And the property is the former Sears department store plus nearly 16 acres of land including parking lots and access roads at the east end of the mall, closest to Great Northern Boulevard. The site is also close to the boulevard’s interchange with Interstate 480, giving the site a high-profile location for a car dealership — especially for offering luxury brands like Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Maserati, Porsche, Mercedes Benz and more.

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Last November, under the name R6 Motors, Inc., Rafih acquired the store and land for $6.55 million from a Tony George-owned affiliate — the George Group-Great Northern Ltd. of Lakewood, according to Cuyahoga County property records. R6 Motors’ tax bills are mailed to 28450 Lorain Rd., site of Mercedes-Benz of North Olmsted.

Map and view of Great Northern Mall in the Cleveland suburb of North Olmsted.

Satellite view and property map of the Great Northern Mall area in the Cleveland suburb of North Olmsted (MyPlaceCuyahoga).

In 2019, Rafih acquired seven Cleveland Motorsports luxury car dealerships from Bernie Moreno who wanted to devote more time and resources to the development of a blockchain business cluster in Cleveland. Moreno reportedly tried to buy them back last year while also making a failed bid to run for U.S. Senator Rob Portman’s seat.

It appears that Rafih will consolidate into one location its Motorsports dealerships based at 28300 Lorain Rd. in North Olmsted as well as its service center at 7168 Pearl Rd., Middleburg Heights. Also, all of Rafih’s Ohio business office personnel will be moved to the Great Northern location and the old locations will likely be closed. In total, 400 employees will be based at the new location, sources said.

The 176,565-square-foot department store and auto service center was the last full-size Sears store operating in Ohio when it closed in the summer of 2020. Sears, once a nationally dominant retailer, had only a dozen smaller Hometown and Sears Appliance Outlet locations remaining in the state when the Great Northern store closed.

Cleveland Motorsports dealership in North Olmsted.

Cleveland Motorsports on Lorain Road, one of Rafih Auto Group’s luxury car dealerships in North Olmsted (Google).

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The store, at The Westfield Group’s 1-million-square-foot Great Northern Mall, will reportedly be repurposed by Rafih rather than demolished and replaced, said the sources who were not authorized to speak publicly about the project yet. NEOtrans also reached out to several Rafih executives.

“We are not ready (to speak publicly) at this point until we receive our final approval from the different (car) manufacturers,” said Terry Rafih, chairman and CEO of Rafih Automotive Group, in an e-mail to NEOtrans.

No city officials were willing to publicly discuss the project either, by expressly declining to comment or simply not returning e-mails that posed questions to them about the project. However, a city councilperson who did not wish to be named said they expected a phased development plan for an unidentified project at Great Northern Mall would come before them for review in April.

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