Akron is purchasing the former Bridgestone technical center and clubhouse, which a national developer is also eyeing and may buy.
The city agreed to pay Bridgestone Americas $5 million for the property as part of a 2009 deal that kept Bridge-stone in Akron, where the company has nearly completed a new technical center.
Akron City Council on Monday unanimously approved legislation that gives Akron Phoenix Development Co. LLC, an affiliate of Amerimar Realty, a one-year option to buy the 35 acres that include the Bridgestone facilities and adjacent undeveloped, industrial-zoned property for the same amount the city is paying Bridgestone. Amerimar, based in Philadelphia, is a national real-estate company that has redeveloped sites in numerous cities, including Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver.
“Amerimar Realty is a world-class developer with tremendous expertise in developing in challenging urban areas,” Mayor Don Plusquellic said in a news release. “This could potentially be transformational for our community and the Firestone Park neighborhood. We are thrilled that Amerimar is interested in developing this area.”
The facilities include the former Bridgestone technical center at 1200 Firestone Parkway and the former Bridgestone “clubhouse,” a triangular-shaped building at 1301 S. Main St., the corner of the Bridgestone campus.
Brad Beckert, Akron’s development engineering manager, said many people have looked over the buildings, but Amerimar is the first developer that is interested. He said the one-year option will give Amerimar the time it needs to calculate the cost of developing the site.
Under the development agreement, Bridgestone must pay for the environmental cleanup of its former facilities, though some costs could fall to the developer, Beckert said. He said Amerimar’s interest should make it easier to get state environmental cleanup grants.
Amerimar could decide to buy both the former technical center, clubhouse and adjoining property for $5 million, purchase only the clubhouse for $675,000 or walk away from the project.
During a Planning Committee meeting Monday, Councilwoman Linda Omobien asked why council needed to act so quickly on the legislation, which was just approved by the Planning Commission Friday.
Councilman Jeff Fusco, who chairs the committee, said council needed to show Amerimar that Akron can act quickly to promote economic development.
“This is a great opportunity,” he said.
Mark Krohn, an Akron attorney representing Amerimar, and Robert Cooper, director of Commercial Real Estate Services in Akron who has been marketing the Bridgestone property, gave council members a packet of information touting Amerimar’s credentials.
The packet detailed three developments Amerimar spearheaded: Pier 39 in San Francisco, which features shops, restaurants and a marina; the Rittenhouse in Philadelphia, a former 33-story high-rise that now houses a luxury hotel, condominiums and office and retail space; and Denver Place in Denver, Colo. that includes three office towers and a 37-story building with hotel rooms and apartments, retail space, an athletic club and a day-care center.
Krohn declined to discuss potential tenants for the Akron development, though he did say they would include office and retail businesses. He said the company would like to turn the clubhouse into a community center, possibly with day care.
Cooper said Bridgestone would continue to lease space in its former technical center for its race car tire operation. He deemed the overall project doable, but said the question is, “How much will it cost?”
“That’s the million-dollar question,” he said. “I wish it was just a million.”
In other business, council:
• Approved plans for Child Guidance and Family Solutions to build a headquarters at the northwest corner of East Market and North Forge streets. The agency plans to spend about $4.5 million on a 25,000-square-foot, two-story building — the first of a two-phase project that will include a separate facility on East Market Street owned by Child Guidance but leased to a Columbus-based private developer. The second facility will include retail, restaurants, offices and health facilities.
The agency, which now has its headquarters on Locust Street next to Akron Children’s Hospital, hopes to break ground on the first phase in early May and finish by next March. The city agreed to the agency’s request to vacate Park Street between Forest and First streets, which will remain open for access to parking.
• Increased the Housing Appeals Board from five to 10 members in hopes of expediting the review of blighted properties. At least five members will attend each meeting, with three required for a quorum. Members will be paid $100 per meeting, up from $75.
Public Service Director Rick Merolla told council the board will begin meeting twice a month, rather than once, with one meeting during the day and one at night to try to cut in half the backlog of complaints about neglected or abandoned houses.
Planning Director John Moore said he is hoping Akron can demolish 300 houses by July and 600 by the end of the year, especially if the city is awarded expected federal and state funds to help remove blighted properties.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com.