CUYAHOGA FALLS: Falls City Council on Monday voted 9-to-2 to approve an amended contract for the Portage Crossing development between the city and Stark Enterprises.
The new contract gives the developer a 10-year, $50,000 rebate a year on electric for the common areas of the shopping district. It also offers the developer up to $129,000 annually in admissions tax collected from a planned movie theater over 10 years.
Redeveloping the corner of State Road and Portage Trail has been in the works since the city bought the aging State Road Shopping Center for $10 million in 2008.
Stark Enterprises, developer of several area retail centers including The Strip in Jackson Township and Crocker Park in Westlake, has been under contract with the city to purchase and develop the land since 2010.
Steve Rubin, of Stark, said he expects to break ground this fall with an opening date within a year.
Council President Don Walters said he reluctantly voted for the contract.
“All along, I have viewed this process as City Council representing the residents as the owners of the property, and the administration acting as our real estate selling agent,” he said. “I want to reject this latest offer brought before us, but the administration has told us that without these latest incentives, the developer will walk away. In my heart, I don’t believe that to be true. But it is not within my power to gamble with the taxpayers’ money.”
Councilwomen Carol Klinger and Carrie Hummel Snyder voted against the contract.
Klinger said she supports redeveloping the State Road property.
She said the sales contract heavily favors Stark Enterprises at the expense of the taxpayers.
“Every time this project has come before City Council for a vote, the mayor has asked us to give the developer more money,” Klinger said. “Where does it end? This contract goes too far and steps over the line.”
Councilman Terry Mader said he believes Stark Enterprises and the city administration have done their best.
“Yes, it’s cost us some money,” he said. “It’s been a progressively changing, constant moving target, mostly due to the economy the entire nation is dealing with. But I think we need to pursue this in light of the money we’ve spent.”
Falls Development Director Sue Truby is happy the contract was approved.
“I’m elated that the majority of council saw the same vision this administration has for this important corridor,” she said. “Certainly, this is going to be a plus. Not only will it revitalize the area, but it is a huge step in the reinvestment of the area.”