George W. Davis

GREEN – City council is now considering an amendment that would increase the scope of a proposed entertainment district and also broadly change the originally proposed boundaries.

Members are considering the district growing from 735 acres to 955 acres, primarily in the Massillon Road Corridor area, stretching from state Route 619 and just south of Lindakay Drive on the north to as far south as just beyond Wise Road and Pancho’s Southwestern Grille on Massillon Road.

The changes were suggested by Planning Director Wayne Wiethe, who said the amended expansion would “desaturize” the project in the Massillon Road area, which already is under major development primarily in the area from Boettler Road south to Town Park Boulevard.

The entertainment district is being considered to lure regional and national businesses, including supermarkets and restaurants to Green, which is maxed out now with 13 D-5 liquor permits for the entire city.

State law would permit up to 15 more D-5 state liquor licenses if the entertainment district is approved. The permits are a major selling point in attracting such retail businesses to Green, bringing more jobs and added tax revenue.

Developer Cindy Williams, who has worked for several years trying to develop a 23.5-acre project off Graybill Road and fronting Massillon Road, told council that the entertainment proposal is advantageous in helping her bring “the type of quality restaurant in here that is going to maintain the credibility of Green” and meet the needs of families, those on a date and those meeting business clients.

“It’s really necessary for us to a have liquor license available for these types of businesses coming into Green,” said Williams. Her Green Project Dev. proposal begins south of Graybill Road at 3995 Massillon Road and goes south to just north of Akron General Medical Center, with retail businesses and offices facing Massillon Road and residential housing on 11 acres east of the retail complex.

Williams said Phase 1 would likely need three to five licenses and possibly more when Phase 2 is developed.

Jim Nilsen, (cq) president and treasurer of Acme Inc., commented, “While it’s not essential for Acme’s effort in terms of opening their store with a beer and wine licenses that they have on application, for the overall developer of the site it is essential for us to see the passage of the city entertainment district legislation.”

Nilsen said that since announcing plans to break ground this spring the level of intensity for interest by potentials businesses has been much higher.  He sad he is “in serious discussions” with several potential tenants for space in Acme’s 30,000 square feet of retail and office space.

Noting that Nilsen said that during planning he had heard others comment that Green was “a significantly under-served restaurant market,” Ward 3 Councilman Ken Knodel said he favored the amended plan since it “gives us the opportunity to spread them (licenses) out.” He added, “In today’s climate a restaurant cannot survive without a liquor license.”

Council President Dave France said he favors the amended proposal, including adding the city-owned land on Town Park Boulevard and on Steese Road.

“I went along with taking the zone farther south. The reasoning for that was the fact that it makes more sense to stretch them out and don’t have so many in one area,” France said.

He added, “I’m not in favor of a second district at this time. I’d rather go ahead with this district and have the number (of licenses) at 15,” adding that he isn’t happy with taking the boundary west to Tabs Drive.

At-large councilman Chris Humphrey suggested only going north on Massillon Road to Interstate 77 and south to Steese Road.

He also would like to limit inclusion of city-owned property, saying he doesn’t believe state legislation requires inclusion of such property to meet requirements.

Ward 1 Councilman Jim Colopy said, “I like the broader boundaries. I like the changes.”

Resident Joel Helms said he preferred the original boundaries, while predicting that a second entertainment district could be created in three to five years in the South Arlington Road area to provide more equal distribution over the entire city.

 As a result of the amendment and other suggested changes, council delayed voting at east to the next meeting on March 12.