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Sale of State Road shopping site finalized

8/15/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

Also, Mary Nichols-Rhodes fills Ward 4 Council seat

CUYAHOGA FALLS — Dirt currently is being pushed around the site of the former State Road Shopping Center, signifying that — after six years of discussions and negotiations — a new retail development officially is underway in the city of Cuyahoga Falls.

Despite being in August recess, City Council gathered for a special meeting Aug. 12 to extend the deadline for the sale of property at the corner of State and Graham roads for the construction of Portage Crossing, a proposed shopping and dining complex.

Council voted 8-2, with Councilwomen Carol Kinger (R-at large) and Carrie Snyder Hummel (D-at large) voting “no,” to move the final sale date from the end of July to Aug. 16.

Klinger and Hummel cited displeasure with the contract as the reason for voting against the sale extension. Klinger has said the sale agreement is a bad deal for the city.

Planning Director Susan Truby explained Stark Enterprises, the buyer, needed one more signature to complete an additional document needed for the sale to be finalized.

She told Council at the Aug. 12 meeting Stark was “ready to close tomorrow.”

“I feel like I am at the end of a race and need to take that last step,” Councilwoman Mary Ellen Pyke (R-Ward 2) said to explain why she was in favor of moving the closing date.

Council President Don Walters (D-Ward 6) said the city would be “worse off financially if it started from scratch,” so he voted for the sale extension.

He questioned how many contract negotiations were in the works between Stark and future tenants of Portage Crossing.

Truby said Stark expects to have five or six additional lease agreements signed in the next two weeks, most likely to include a contract with Starbucks.

City officials said Portage Crossing definitely would feature Giant Eagle, Cinemark, Pet Supplies Plus, Best Cuts, Fashion Nails, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Several residents who spoke during the meeting expressed strong support for the project, which, once completed, would make it easier for them to shop and dine close to home.

Dennis Brinton, of Eighth Street, said he was “tired” of the delays and extensions, though. He said the “plug” on the project should have been “pulled” a long time ago, as too many city resources have been used to bring the project to fruition.

Mayor Don Robart said Stark Enterprises remains the best developer for the project and explained why several of the delays took place.

“The economy has not helped the struggle,” he said.

Robart said the majority of Falls residents want to see the project started.

In 2010, City Council approved the sale of the 25-acre former State Road Shopping Center site to Stark Enterprises for $3.79 million.

Also during the special meeting, Robart swore Mary Nichols-Rhodes into office.

Nichols-Rhodes, a Democrat, is serving as the new Ward 4 Council representative, replacing former Ward 4 Councilman Mark Ihasz.

City officials said Ihasz retired last month to move his family to Florida.

The Summit County Democratic Committee met at the end of July and selected Nichols-Rhodes for the position, city officials reported.

Nichols-Rhodes is a 30-year licensed practical nurse and grew up in the Falls, according to city officials.

City officials said she will serve out the remainder of Ihasz’s term, ending Dec. 31. She has filed to run for the seat in the Nov. 5 General Election.

Council will hold committee meetings Sept. 3 and a regular meeting Sept. 9, both beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Natatorium, 2345 Fourth St.

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