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Akron Planning Commission OKs plans for new grocery

5/23/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

A rendering of the new Mustard Seed grocery store planned for Highland Square is shown above.
Rendering courtesy of Middough Inc.
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Highland Square residents may get a long-awaited grocery store just in time for Thanksgiving next year.

The Akron Planning Commission approved two items related to plans for the construction of a Mustard Seed grocery store in Highland Square May 17.

The commission voted unanimously to allow the city to sell the two parcels of land containing two retail buildings and parking space to Highland Square Economic Development LLC. One of the lots, at 867 W. Market St., is known as Highland Square West and includes a vacant retail building. It will be sold for $3.8 million. The other, at 825 W. Market St., is known as Highland Square East and includes the retail building with Chipotle and Wally Waffle, as well as other establishments. It will be sold for $2.1 million.

The property is within an area conditionally approved for a mixed-use development, including retail uses and a grocery store and within the Highland Square Urban Renewal Area.

According to Akron Planning Department officials, the city will borrow $3.8 million from HUD to build and furnish the store, which is needed to give HUD a mortgage on the property. Highland Square Economic Development will borrow the loan from the city and use rent payments from Highland Square West and the grocery store to repay the city.

FirstMerit Bank, located between the two buildings, will donate a 1,085-square-foot parcel for the project. A vacant and relatively new building on the site also owned by the city will be demolished to make room for the grocery store.

Mustard Seed would lease the two parcels for about five years and then purchase them, according to city officials.

The commission also approved plans for the Mustard Seed store, to be located in a triangle among West Market Street, North Portage Path, Edgerton Road and Conger Avenue, after some discussion.

According to the city’s Planning Department, the Mustard Seed store would include 10,970 square feet on the first level and 5,865 on the second, and an additional 2,995 square feet of outdoor terrace space. The first level would be for retail sales and support areas, such as the receiving dock and truck staging area, as well as indoor and outdoor dining. The second level would consist of a multi-purpose room and outdoor terrace.

The two-story building would be constructed of brick, steel and glass, and there would be 76 parking spaces on site, as well as street parking for both the grocery store and the bank.

Construction would start in June, and the store would be slated to open in the fall of 2014, according to city officials.

Commission members had several questions regarding the proposed plans.

Member Renee Greene asked about the truck turn-around area, and city officials responded there are no plans to expand it.

Member Tim Kidder asked city officials to monitor construction noise and the effect of parking lot lighting on residents in the neighborhood.

Member Dave Bryant asked city officials about plans to expand the streets in the area to relieve current “bottle-neck” traffic, and city officials responded there also were no plans for that.

He also asked whether parking space would be taken up by the neighborhood and thus negatively impact the success of the grocery store.

Mustard Seed co-owner Phillip Nabors, who said he lives in the area, said the parking issue has received a lot of thought.

“The bank gets little traffic due to online banking,” he said. “We do have plans to encourage people to walk to the grocery store, and we will be selling grocery carts and awarding prizes for decorating them. We expect more frequent visits and the use of smaller shopping baskets.”

There were no comments from residents or businesses in the area at the meeting.

The project is slated to come before Akron City Council for final approval in the coming weeks.

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