Gina Mace


CUYAHOGA FALLS: The future of Cuyahoga Falls is bright, and its financial condition is stronger than ever. And the mayor says this future will include a Menards store.



The news that the home improvement retailer is committed to the city was among the highlights of Mayor Don L. Robart’s State of the City address Wednesday.



Menards had been part of the Portage Crossing development until the owner of a parcel that now includes Pizza Hut withdrew from an agreement to make room for the retailer with developer Stark Enterprises.



“Officials have since found another site for Menards and are diligently working toward acquisition of the property with the development team,” Robart said. “We are very optimistic that a completed deal will be reached in 2013.”



Stark Enterprises has a final agreement with Cinemark to anchor the north end of Portage Crossing, Robart said. The high-tech theater will have 10 screens.



“This facility will not only be the perfect fit for the site, but due to its square footage being less than required by Menards, it has opened up space for three additional outlots that will be marketed to restaurants and other retailers,” he said.



Other previously undisclosed Portage Crossing retailers announced in the mayor’s speech before the city’s Chamber of Commerce include Best Cuts and Fashion Nails.



“These types of retailers will bring repeat customers to the center on a weekly basis,” he said.



Portage Crossing’s groundbreaking is expected this spring. While work ramps up, the mayor said, Portage Trail traffic congestion should end in early summer. The $3.4 million public improvement project started in July.



Robart said the city also is looking forward to the completion of the Acme Fresh Market on State Road in early May.



With help from a 50 percent tax incentive that will save the company nearly $1 million over 10 years, the mayor said, the new store will be three times the size of the old Acme 10 and have a 1950s retro look. The bigger store will create 20 new full- and part-time jobs.



Despite an economy still recovering from recession, the mayor said, the city’s finances are healthy.



“The elimination of our municipal court and the subsequent creation of our mayor’s court have yielded a net of almost $1.5 million,” he said. “[Police ]Chief Tom Pozza’s proactive agreement to house Tallmadge’s prisoners in our jail created almost $43,000 in revenue.”



Robart praised Falls Engineer Tony Demasi, whose efforts netted $2.4 million in grants from the Department of Transportation and the Ohio Public Works Commission. The mayor also cited John Konich, the city’s director of information services, for negotiations of technology service contracts that will save $1.6 million.



And Robart credited the city’s development department, led by Sue Truby, for an increase of 4.5 percent in 2012 income tax revenue thanks to businesses moving into or expanding in the Falls.



Under Service Director Valerie Wax Carr and Superintendent Chuck Novak, the mayor said spreaders saved nearly 5,000 tons of salt valued at $244,000. In their seven years, the salt spreaders have saved more than $2 million.



Robart highlighted other successes, including the August opening of Rubber City Harley-Davidson on Home Avenue and the relocation of Silicone Solutions from Twinsburg to the former Ultra Tech building on Remington Road. The mayor also noted Technicote’s opening of a 45,800-square-foot addition after a devastating fire in 2011.



He recalled that more than 1,100 people attended the opening of the Watermark in April — a three-story building with two floors of apartments for those 55 and over and top-floor condos. Less than a year later, the mayor said, all of the apartments are occupied and only one condo remains for sale.



In 2012, work ended on an intersection deemed one of the area’s most dangerous.



Since completion of the reshaping project at the intersection of Howe Avenue and Main Street, the number of accidents has dropped 20 percent, Robart said.



“Those that question our persistence in pushing for the Graham Road expansion need only look at the Howe and Main Street numbers to understand our motives,” he said.



The highlight of 2012 was the city’s Bicentennial Celebration, Robart said.



“No one in Cuyahoga Falls government worked harder in 2012 than our outstanding service director, Valerie Wax Carr,” the mayor said.



Carr, who supervises nine departments, also coordinated the celebration.



Robart pointed to two bicentennial projects that will “endure the test of time.”



The Cuyahoga Falls Bicentennial Arboretum site at Kennedy Park was dedicated in April with the planting of a celebration maple tree. The arboretum will feature 200 native Ohio trees and shrubs to be planted over the next 10 years with the support of sponsors.



The Keyser Park barn was restored on Bath Road, east of Northampton Road, as a bicentennial legacy project. Robart said the next step will be to restore its interior. The park will host Sunday night concerts beginning in mid-June.