Summit County Executive Russ Pry on Friday announced the relocation of the scattered Department of Job and Family Services and other county offices under one roof.
Pry told a crowd of nearly 600 attending his State of the County address, sponsored by the Akron Press Club, at the John S. Knight Center that the jobs department, which is now split over four buildings in downtown Akron, will consolidate at an old Bridgestone/Firestone building at 1180 S. Main St.
Formal approval will require a vote of Summit County Council.
“We have now finalized an agreement that we will be taking to our council for a new home for the Department of Job and Family Services. We are also going to be moving our Department of Environmental Services there and other smaller operations from State Street in Cuyahoga Falls,” Pry said. “We have reached a deal with Akron Phoenix Development and will be relocating with the blessing of our council.”
He said the county will lease the old Bridgestone/Firestone location — a triangular-shaped structure across from the tire maker’s former technical center — for 19½ years. Summit will pay about $1.5 million per year for the lease — $9.40 per each of the building’s 160,000 square feet.
The county lease means Akron Phoenix Development Co. LLC, a company set up by Amerimar Realty of Philadelphia for this project, will buy the 35 acres with the former Bridgestone headquarters from the city of Akron for $5 million. Akron purchased the property from Bridgestone in March 2012, with the hopes of attracting a developer who would buy it for the same amount the city paid.
“We are delighted,” David Marshall, owner of Amerimar, said Friday in a phone interview. “We see this as a great opportunity to develop that part of the city. This is the first big olive with future olives tumbling out of the jar.”
$20 million in renovations
Jim Loveman, vice president of Amerimar, said the county will lease the four- story Bridgestone building after Amerimar invests about $20 million in renovations to turn the space, which is currently a parking garage, into offices for the county. He expects the renovations to take about a year.
Pry also estimated occupancy by the middle of 2015. He said overseeing the $20 million in renovations probably will prove to be the biggest undertaking the county has attempted in some time.
Free parking for clients
He said the building will hold about 400 employees with some shared common areas and shared meeting spaces. Clients needing county services will find ample free parking, and the site is located along a main bus line for public transportation.
After Summit County Council approves the lease, the next step will be Amerimar’s purchase of the property from the city.
“Our hope is that, within a couple of months, it will be all wrapped up,” Loveman said.
He said developers sought, but did not receive, historic tax credits from the state for the project last year and will be reapplying at the end of this month.
Those involved with the project hope that the county’s lease will spur other tenants to look at the property and consider locating there. Akron City Council rezoned the property in November to allow offices, limited business, retail and apartments.
“Without question, it will help market the rest,” said Bob Cooper, the Akron real estate broker for the project. “I’m in good discussions with large tenants.”
He declined to say who else might be interested in the property.
Bob Bowman, Akron’s deputy mayor of economic development, said he’s pleased about the county lease and that Amerimar now can move forward with redeveloping the property.
“They’ve got some ideas about how they want to do it,” he said. “If those things happen, it will spur additional development in the area.”
Pry said the county also is looking into what to do with the existing buildings that will be vacated.
“We are currently working on the downtown property with two different developers to look at our property at the [Sojourner] Truth Building on High Street and the two buildings on North Main Street,” Pry said. “We’ve poised the Austen BioInnovation Institute at 47 N. Main St. to take over the existing shed behind the building for additional training for their preparedness in their assimilation center.
“They would then take over the garage behind the shed and make that part of their advanced prototypes that they now have to do off-site. This will help them continue to grow.”
Pry said the county is also working with Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters on what to do with the State Road building that housed 52 county employees from the Department of Environmental Services.
“It’s a 53,000-square-foot building,” he said. “We want to put that property back on the tax roll for the city and schools.”
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.