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Falls Council approves zoning change for Portage Crossing

9/27/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

Crocker Park in Westlake is a mixed-use venue featuring retail stores, restaurants, office buildings and luxury apartments.

Portage Crossing, a proposed development in Cuyahoga Falls, most likely would not mirror Crocker Park as closely as the project’s developer originally planned. At the Sept. 24 Cuyahoga Falls Council meeting, Council approved a requested zoning change from Portage Crossing developer Stark Enterprises, also the developer of Crocker Park.

The ordinance adopted by Council 10-1 rezones the 11 parcels of land, a total of 27 acres, which would make up Portage Crossing. The development would be constructed on the site of the former State Road Shopping Center.

Councilwoman Carol Klinger (R-at large) voted against the measure. She has expressed opposition to the project, specifically how long it is taking Stark Enterprises to finalize the sale of the land with the city and an apparent lack of interest from restaurants and retailors not already present in the city.

Stark Enterprises has said since the project was first proposed more than three years ago that Portage Crossing would be anchored by a grocery store. While rumors circulated the grocery store might have been a Trader Joe’s, the developer confirmed in early spring Giant Eagle would be the anchor. A Giant Eagle already is located on Graham Road and Howe Avenue in the city. City officials have said the Graham Road location would move to the development. A plan for the vacant building the relocation would leave behind has not been determined yet, city officials have said.

Stark Enterprises has announced the development also would include Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Pet Supplies Plus, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, B-Spot Restaurant and Menards, a home improvement store.

Earlier this month, Councilwoman Mary Ellen Pyke (R-Ward 2) questioned how closely Crocker Park and Portage Crossing actually would look, in light of the zoning change request.

Planning Director Fred Guerra explained the zoning change removes the proposed residential component from the project due to the housing market decline. Stark Enterprises originally expressed a desire to have Portage Crossing feature upscale townhomes.

Community Development Director Susan Truby explained Portage Crossing still would be a unique, state-of-the-art development and would not resemble the common strip mall, however.

Stark Enterprises primarily asked for the property to be rezoned commercial to better accommodate the development’s two anchor tenants, Giant Eagle and Menards, Guerra has said.

The closing date for Portage Crossing was moved from late July to Oct. 31 to allow time to approve the requested zoning change, city officials said.

Steve Rubin, chief operating officer for Stark Enterprises, said last year he planned to close on the sale by March 31, 2012, and break ground shortly after that.

After several delays, Council members have said the community has become anxious to see construction begin on the project.

Council also introduced several pieces of new legislation Sept. 24. The new legislation includes ordinances assigning and reassigning various job classifications of the city to approve established pay grades; amending the Codified Ordinances relating to authorized staffing of the Police and Fire departments; and authorizing the Parks and Recreation Board to construct a storage and maintenance building at Brookledge Golf Course.

Additionally during the meeting, Council approved legislation to:

• authorize a second modification of a contract with SRW Environmental Services, in an amount not to exceed $39,000, for professional environmental assessment services related to remediation at 4610 State Road;

• consent to the improvement of Howe Avenue from Main Street to Buchholzer Boulevard by the Ohio Department of Transportation and provide a minimum of 20 percent of the total cost;

• remove the prohibition on left turns existing at 461 Graham Road onto eastbound Graham Road;

• authorize a contract, without competitive bidding, with Finely Fire Equipment Co. Inc. for the purchase of a “Hurst Jaws of Life” hydraulic rescue tool set; and

• accept the recommendations of the Tax Incentive Review Council and the Community Reinvestment Area Housing Council concerning enterprise zone and community reinvestment area tax exemption agreements.

Council will hold its next committee meetings Oct. 1 and a regular meeting Oct. 8, both beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Natatorium, 2345 Fourth St.

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