With her hands on the controls of an excavator, Stow Mayor Sara Drew took the first shot at demolishing the vacant section of the Stow-Kent Shopping Center on Monday morning.
The plaza, a landmark in Stow since its construction in 1959, is targeted for a $15 million redevelopment to turn it into a mixed-used development.
The project will include the demolition of a portion of the existing plaza on Kent Road (S.R. 59), renovation of the remaining buildings and parking lot, and construction of 152 apartment units.
Macy's will remain and may see some upgrades, the mayor has said. The redevelopment will be done in one phase.
Rob Risman, property owner and president/CEO of Burton Carol Management LLC, said the project is a "great collaboration" with Drew and the city, adding he is "looking forward to getting some nice things in here."
Drew noted this first step was taking place almost two years exactly to the date -- June 6, 2012 -- that the first meeting between the city and Risman to pitch the idea of redevelopment took place.
"It's been two years of intense amount of effort and commitment and excitement," she said. "I am so happy I could break into tears."
The property is zoned C-4 General Business and located in the Stow Kent Overlay District, which was approved by City Council in 2012. Mixed-use projects are conditionally permitted in this district.
Risman has said new names are planned for the redeveloped plaza; tentatively proposed are Plaza 59 for the retail portion and Highland Row for the apartments.
The demolition on Monday was at the site of the former Stambaugh Home Improvement store, which has been vacant for about 15 years.
Among the spectators was Barb Hilliard of Deerfield, who grew up in Stow. She recalled watching the plaza go up "and now I'm going to watch it come down."
Drew said FirstEnergy still has some power lines to disconnect before full demolition can begin next week, but some work will be going on this week.
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