There's no official line separating the York metropolitan area's east and west sides.

But ask anyone who has ever tried to conveniently get from one to the other, and they'll tell you: The line is there, somewhere around Interstate 83, George Street or the Susquehanna Trail.

And crossing it can be such a hassle many people will stay on their own side for shopping and entertainment if at all possible.

Usually, it's very possible, since most establishments on the east side have comparable, if not identical, counterparts to the west.

Not when it comes to malls, though.

While the Galleria in Springettsbury Township is a bustling hub, the West Manchester Mall in West Manchester Township has been known as a struggling ghost town for years.

That could change, however, now that the West Manchester Mall's new owners have unveiled a $47 million plan to turn the 32-year-old facility "inside out."

Tony Ruggeri, co-founder of M&R Investors, a Texas firm that bought the enclosed mall last year, said plans call for transforming it into an outdoor mall similar to Hunt Valley Towne Centre in Maryland. The reconfigured mall would be known as West Manchester Town Center.

The idea is to attract numerous new national retailers and box stores, as well as several restaurants to occupy pads that would be created on the 95-acre site, he said.

Roads and parking lots around the mall will be redesigned, creating public gathering spaces and a plaza that would include seasonal attractions, Ruggeri said.

It's an ambitious plan -- one M&R has been working on since it bought the mall a little more than a year -- and long overdue.

The mall was 32 percent vacant at the time M&R took ownership, and the empty store fronts simply reinforced shoppers perception it wasn't worth visiting.

"I never come just to browse because there's nothing here," said West York resident Judy Heck. She was there this week looking for a specific item and planned to leave after she found it.

Ruggeri said he considers that an opportunity similar to the One Hundred Oaks mall in Nashville, Tenn., which was 55 percent vacant before M&R bought and revamped it. It's now 99 percent occupied.

If he can pull that off here, life would get a little easier for west side residents, who will also be getting a medical center once Memorial Hospital moves its operation from Spring Garden Township to the site of the former Hawk Lake Golf Course in West Manchester Township.

The mall project hinges, however, on approval of an economic development tool through which governing bodies agree to give money from an increased assessment on the improved property back to the project over a period of 10 to 20 years.

That means York County, West Manchester Township and the West York Area school board all have to sign off on the plan. The township and the county are on board, and the school board is expected to make a decision at its next meeting.

We hope board members take the long view.

They would not be losing any of the tax they currently receive from the mall; they simply would be guaranteeing more tax revenue, albeit years down the road.