A massive redevelopment of the Stow-Kent Shopping Center is another step closer to fruition.
City Council adopted a motion to waive up to $12,000 in fees associated with a site-plan application Feb. 28.
Planning Director Rob Kurtz said the city anticipates reviewing an initial site plan from the property owners in late March.
Mayor Sara Drew called the waiving of fees a "smart investment."
"This is something that we've done on a selective basis in the past for significant development projects," said Drew. "Clearly, Stow-Kent qualifies as a very significant development project."
The move also reflects the city's desire to work with developers in the business sector.
"By waiving those planning application fees, it creates a business-friendly atmosphere," Drew said. "It offers a small incentive. And instead of actually giving out a financial incentive, we're simply waiving a fee."
While a specific dollar figure has not been assigned to the project, Drew said, it's in the multi-millions.
"The scope of this project and the financial investment is quite, quite significant," she said. "When we look at the amount of investment that the owners and developers are considering putting into this project, the return that the city will see from this small incentive is astronomical."
The entirely retail plaza has been the bane of city officials for nearly 15 years -- roughly the time Stambaugh's Home Improvement closed, said Kurtz. That business occupied a large building in the back corner of the lot that has been vacant ever since.
The plaza is less than 50 percent occupied, noted Kurtz in December, making it the most vacant of any of the city's major retail areas.
While some of the plaza's stores, such as anchor-tenant Macy's, are doing particularly well, Kurtz said, some others have been "struggling." He said part of the reason is because people's shopping habits have changed since the plaza was built in 1959.
City officials and the property owners have said the goal is to transform the all-retail plaza into a mixed-use development featuring a housing component and possible office spaces that would complement retail stores.
The Stow-Kent Shopping Center is owned by Rob Risman and Stuart Graines. Risman is the owner and CEO of Cleveland-based Burton Carol Management LLC, and Graines operates Cleveland-based GMS Management, which manages the property.
"What we're planning on doing is a mix of cottage-style apartments, which would have individual entries and attached garages that would be very nice, and also townhouse units that would be stacked one above the other with individual entries and attached garages," Risman said, emphasizing any plans are subject to revisions by the city.
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