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Falls Council OKs sale of State Road property

5/16/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

Groundbreaking expected on Portage Crossing in August

CUYAHOGA FALLS — Cuyahoga Falls City Council sat at a fork in the road during the May 13 meeting, ultimately veering toward the development of Portage Crossing, with some more hesitant to proceed in that direction than others.

City Council members Carol Klinger (R-at large) and Carrie Hummel Snyder (D-at large) wanted to halt the sale of the former site of the State Road Shopping Center to Stark Enterprises. Both have stated the amended contract would not be a good deal for the taxpayers.

However, Council collectively gave the city administration the green light for the sale of the property at State Road and Portage Trail to Stark for the construction of a 241,000-square-foot retail center being called Portage Crossing. Klinger and Hummel voted against the measure.

“I support redeveloping the property but can’t support the contract for the sale,” Klinger said.

The approved contract goes “too far,” she said, and is “too costly for the families of our city.”

According to the approved contract, the city is selling the 25.29-acre parcel to Stark for $150,000 per acre, for a sale total of slightly less than $3.8 million.

The city purchased the former State Road Shopping Center property for $10.2 million in 2008 and demolished the buildings in 2009.

City Finance Director Joseph Brodzinski has estimated the city eventually would recoup its cost of the land purchase through a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement in about 20 years, however.

Klinger said the projected figures are “misleading.”

She explained the city administration is counting on the project to create 500 jobs, but based on her calculations, the numbers do not add up.

According to Klinger, the proposed Cinemark Movie Theater at Portage Crossing most likely would create 15 jobs — best-case scenario — but the city administration estimates 85 would be employed on-site, for example.

She expressed displeasure with the city already putting so much money into the project at the expense of the taxpayers.

Klinger said the city was promised a “Crocker Park-like development,” with rumors Portage Crossing would feature a Trader Joe’s, an upscale grocery store, and Kohl’s, a department store, but that no longer is the case.s

She is not happy that current Cuyahoga Falls businesses would be relocating from their current sites, including Giant Eagle and Huntington Bank.

Portage Crossing would include Best Cuts, a hair salon, which already was part of the old State Road Shopping Center, Klinger said.

In addition to the Cinemark, Giant Eagle, Huntington Bank and Best Cuts, the most recent site plan for Portage Crossing shows the development also would include a Pet Supplies Plus and a Fashion Nails.

Stark also has reported Portage Crossing most likely would include a Chipotle and Aladdin’s Eatery.

Earlier this year, Stark told the city Portage Crossing would include restaurants Michael Symon’s B-Spot and Panera Bread and Menchie’s, a frozen yogurt establishment. Project officials said these businesses still are being pursued but no longer are secured occupants.

Councilman Terry Mader (R-Ward 8) said he believes Stark Enterprises has done the best it can to attract business to the project in light of the economy. He also stated the city administration has done the best it can to come to an agreement with Stark.

“I feel it is important we pursue this after the time and money we already spent,” he said.

Council President Don Walters (D-Ward 6) agreed that a delay in coming to an agreement would cost the city more money, as the current developer “would walk away.”

He said he voted for the “lesser of the two evils.”

According to the approved contract, the sale of the property would be finalized June 30, with a groundbreaking ceremony for Portage Crossing to be held in August.

Stark has reported the majority of Portage Crossing would open between fall 2014 and spring 2015.

Also during the May 13 meeting, Council introduced legislation that would approve the site plan related to the construction of a 9,100-square-foot retail sales building at 3964 State Road and the site plan related to the construction of retail sales buildings “C,” “D,” “G” and “H” at the Portage Crossing site.

Council will hold its next committee meetings May 20 and a regular meeting May 28, a day later than usual due to the Memorial Day holiday, both beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Natatorium, 2345 Fourth St.

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