If you rezone it, they will come.
That’s Akron’s dream for 84 acres of property containing former Bridgestone properties off of Firestone Parkway.
Akron City Council voted Monday to change the zoning on the South Akron property from industrial to a mixed use that will allow offices, limited business, retail and apartments. This is the same zoning change the city made to the former Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. property.
“These neighborhoods are evolving and what the buildings were constructed for may no longer be in play,” said Councilman Jeff Fusco, who chairs the Planning Committee.
Fusco said the rezoning “just makes sense.”
The rezoning includes two parcels, one that houses Bridgestone Americas’ former headquarters and clubhouse. The second is across from Bridgestone’s new technical center and parking garage at the corner of Firestone Parkway and Wilbeth Road and currently contains a testing center for Bridgestone with vacant land behind it.
Mike Antenucci, Akron’s zoning manager, said Bridgestone is “on board” with the zoning changes.
Akron City Council agreed in March 2012 to buy the 35 acres with the former Bridgestone headquarters and clubhouse from Bridgestone for $5 million and is hoping to attract a developer to purchase and redevelop the site. The city is continuing to work with Phoenix Development Co., LLC, an affiliate of Philadelphia-based Amerimar Realty, and hopes Phoenix eventually will buy the property for the same amount Akron paid for it and convert it into offices and other facilities.
Jim Loveman, vice president of Amerimar, a national real-estate company that has redeveloped sites in numerous cities, called the rezoning a positive step.
“The land uses need to be flexible to permit the diverse range of uses that may be in demand today,” he said. “This is what all the vibrant neighborhoods are about these days, where you have residential and commercial mixed up.”
Loveman said Amerimar is still in negotiations with a possible tenant for the former Bridgestone clubhouse, a four-story, triangular-shaped building. He said a lease on this property would “allow us to begin the first phase of the redevelopment of the property.”
In other business, the council approved the sale of 5 acres at 1200 East Waterloo Road at the intersection of Kelly Avenue to Vadyxx Energy LLC, an Akron startup that takes recycled plastics and converts them into energy products, such as diesel. The company, which has offices in the Akron Global Business Accelerator, has been doing a pilot project in a building at 655 S. Broadway St. The company is now ready to build a $20 million, 18,000-square-foot production facility on the Waterloo Road property, which is expected to result in 15 jobs immediately, said Brent Hendren, who is with Akron’s economic development office.
Vadyxx expects down the road to build a second facility on the Waterloo Road property for research and development, Hendren said.
The city will not charge Vadyxx upfront for the property, valued at about $150,000. However, Akron Development Corporation, the city’s nonprofit arm, will assume a financial stake in the company, Hendren said.
“As it grows and operates, we will share in the profits,” Hendren said. “We will use this to support other ventures.”
Bob Bowman, Akron’s deputy mayor for economic development, said Vadyxx planned to open its new facility in Cleveland, but concerns were raised about potential pollution. So, the company decided to instead build in Akron.
“We’ve proven the technology is not a polluter,” Bowman said, pointing to the company’s pilot project.
Jeremy DeBenedictis, Vadyxx’s vice president of operations and engineering, said the company eventually hopes to have 100 production units across the United States.
Councilman Mike Freeman pointed to Vadyxx as a success story from the city’s accelerator.
“This is it,” he said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics. Beacon Journal reporter Katie Byard contributed to this report.