By 2008, the slow decline of the State Road Shopping Center in Cuyahoga Falls had reached a crisis point. Businesses had moved out, buildings were in disrepair. What had once been an asset to the surrounding area had become a glaring liability.
That’s when the city stepped in, using eminent domain to purchase the site, hoping to attract a developer. After many twists and turns, a deal was signed last week, developer Robert Stark ready to move on the Portage Crossings project.
Along the way, the project changed from one that included housing and retail to all retail. Another snag surfaced when the property-tax-dependent Cuyahoga Falls school board turned down a tax-sharing plan. Fortunately, the board reconsidered, opening the way for new jobs and income.
Mayor Don Robart and city planners now hope that Portage Crossings, anchored by a Cinemark theater and a Giant Eagle Market District store, will spur more development activity.
The project shows that such challenges affect not just core cities, but also first-ring suburbs, requiring creative thinking and complex development and tax-sharing agreements. In the Falls, patience, persistence and cooperation paid off.
From a regional perspective, the Falls project underscores the advantages of using existing infrastructure such as roads and water and sewer lines, rather than pushing development farther and farther into rural areas, straining the ability of local governments to provide services.