Portage Crossing Project
On January 17, 2008, a meeting was held between City officials and State Road Associates to discuss the purchase of the State Road Shopping Center. As a result, the City was able to reach an agreement in principle to purchase the shopping center for $10,200,000. The closing for the purchase took place on August 29, 2008, followed by environmental testing of the soil and groundwater on the twenty-five acre site. Though the plaza was over 70% vacant at the time of purchase, all 12 of the remaining businesses signed Settlement Agreements with the City to further support the City’s goal of vacating all stores by January 31, 2009.
In October 2008, the Development Department issued Requests for Qualifications to more than sixty development teams in the Ohio and Midwest region. These RFQ’s requested information and preliminary proposals from interested developers to acquire and redevelop this important retail site on State Road. Four development teams had responded to the request prior to the December 12, 2008 deadline. The next important step was a review of the four responses by the Selection Committeecomprised of City Councilmembers Debbie Ritzinger, at-large; Diana Colavecchio, Ward 5; and Ken Barnhart, Ward 3; along with administrative staff consisting of the Finance Director, Service Director, Planning Director, and Development Director. The Committee unanimously selected Stark Enterprises as the developer. A press conference was held at the Natatorium on May 14, 2009 to announce the decision. Later that month, the Stark Team, along with Development Director, Sue Truby, Planning Director, Fred Guerra and Councilwoman, Debbie Ritzinger, traveled to the International Council of Shopping Centers RECon: Global Real Estate Convention in Las Vegas to begin the market for retailers.
A demolition celebration was held on August 21, 2009 and was attended by thousands of onlookers. Demolition began with the Montgomery Ward building, and continued throughout the remainder of the year until the entire 350,000 square feet of buildings was reduced to a pile of rubble. The final piece of demolition was completedwith the contractor utilizing green measures by crushing the concrete on-site for future use in filling the basements of the buildings.
On February 8, 2010, City Council passed legislation to proceed with the sale of the property to Stark Enterprises for $3.79 million. The Development Department had also applied for a $2,000,000 grant from CORF (Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund), which was utilized for the demolition and environmental remediation of the site.
On May 3, 2011, a Compensation Agreement was approved by the Cuyahoga Falls City School District and the City of Cuyahoga Falls. The agreement would provide the School District with approximately $245,963 annually, which would be significantly more than the $65,763 the School District had received when the property was privately owned. Moreover, at the end of the term of the agreement, the School District is estimated to begin receiving over $596,000 annually.
Also in 2011, Stark Enterprises informed the City that,due to the tremendous amount of interest in this location, the project would be built in one phase rather than two phases as dictated by the original development agreement. This decision would allow the project to have sufficient critical mass to establish the kind of gathering place we all have envisioned that will contribute significantly to the lifestyle of our citizenry.As such, the project has grown from its original size of 279,000 square feet to just over 470,000 square feet. Consequently, the project value has also increased from $40 million to $60 million. The resultant effect is more jobs and more taxes – to both the School District and the community. The increased tax base would allow the City to pay off debt much sooner than originally anticipated and would significantly increase the amount of taxes flowing to the School District.
In September 2011, the City purchased the former BP gas station and, according to contract, the purchase price was shared 50/50 with Stark Enterprises. Demolition took place in December 2011. This critical corner will serve as the ‘gateway’ to Portage Crossing Marketplace.
In 2012, Stark Enterprises reached a final agreement with Cinemark to become the anchor for the northern end of Portage Crossing. Cinemark is the third largest movie theater chain in the U.S. and the Cuyahoga Falls complex will be a ten-screen state-of-the-art theater. Due to its square footage being less than required by the originally proposed Menard’s store, it had opened up space for three additional outlotswhich will be marketed to restaurants and other retailers.
A necessary component in preparation for the proposed Portage Crossing project is the improvement of the City’s public infrastructure to accommodate the new retail facilities. Accompanied by a $1,133,776 grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission, the City selected Karvo Paving in July 2012 to begin the public improvement project. The new improvements included new traffic signalization, improved streets, new curbs and sidewalks, new streetlights complete with banners and hanging flower baskets, brick pavers and landscaping. These major improvements will serve as the backbone for the new Portage Crossing Marketplace.
On August 15, 2013, the Community Improvement Corporation of Cuyahoga Falls approved an incentive grant in the amount of $100,000 to upgrade the proposed Giant Eagle grocery store to a new Market District store, and awarded a $50,000 incentive grant in October, 2013 to upgrade the proposed Get-Go fueling station to a 90,000 square foot Get-Go Kitchen. These improvements will add a unique quality to Portage Crossing, as they are the first of their kind in this area.
The Giant Eagle Market District store will anchor the southern end of the 27-acre site. Stark Enterprises has also signed leases with two convenience service stores; Best Cuts and Fashion Nails. These types of retailers will bring repeat customers to the center on a weekly basis.
Portage Crossing Retailers:
Giant Eagle Market District
Pet Supplies Plus
Menchie's Frozen Yogurt
In 2013, Stark Enterprises began to bring final site plans before the Planning Commission and City Council, allowing for construction to finally begin. The Get-Go Kitchen began construction in October, 2013, with a grand opening slated for mid-April, 2014.
The Giant Eagle Market District store is currently waiting for a break in the weather so that it, too, can break ground. Construction of the remaining buildings are soon to follow with additional stores opening over the next two years. It is anticipated that by fall of 2014, the new Portage Crossing Marketplace will be open and ready for business!
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