The mostly empty parking lot at the Chapel Hill Mall could soon be teeming with cars — for sale.

The Akron Planning Commission will hear a conditional zoning request by North Coast Auto Mall to park at least 350 cars on 6.22 acres of the mall’s parking lot along Brittain Road. The car dealer, which already leases a portion of the space, must get city approval to use the retail space for commercial storage.

Akron’s planning department is recommending that the five-member planning commission approve the request, which would then go before City Council for final approval, perhaps before the elected body takes its August recess.

No sales would be conducted on the 6.22 acres, which would also be used for employee parking by North Coast Auto Mall. The car dealer is located directly opposite the mall on Brittain Road. The plan states that 500 vehicles may be parked outside the mall if business continues to pick up. Spaces closer to the food court entrance of the mall would still be available to mall patrons, according to the planning documents.

The mall is currently owned by Kohan Retail Investment Group out of Great Neck, New York. The company, which has been late at least twice this year on its electric bill, purchased the old mall for $8.6 million in July 2016.

In writing to support the project, city planners said that “North Coast Auto Mall is outgrowing their location and needs room for expansion. Chapel Hill Mall is struggling, with many vacancies. As such, the amount of on-site off-street parking vastly exceeds demand.

“Realistically, due to a decline in traditional retail users with shifts in how shoppers spend their money (travel, technology, restaurants) and the rise in on-line shopping, malls across America have been faced with a need to diversify by fulfilling other community needs for commerce.”

The commercial use of mall parking spaces is meant to help the auto dealer not outgrow its current location while assisting the mall, where the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com in April found 60 percent of smaller retail stores vacant.

 

Hospice center

Also this Friday at 9 a.m. on the third floor at 166 S. High St., the Akron Planning Commission will hear plans for Grace House at 475 N. Howard St.

The new building at the doorstep of Akron’s North Hill neighborhood will serve as a hospice home center for elderly patients who don’t have a home or caregivers. Summa Health announced last month that it would sell the land for $10 to Grace House Akron, the operator and developer.

An old doctor’s office was demolished late last year on the 0.7-acre lot at the corner of North Howard and Olive Street (known as Dr. Bob’s Way in honor of the Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder). Holly Klein, a 20-year hospice nurse and volunteer president of Grace House Akron, told the Beacon Journal last month that the plan is based on Cleveland’s Malachi House, a 16-bed home for dying seniors. There are only 50 similar facilities like this across the country.

Grace House would provide six beds. Any structure with more than five nonrelated inhabitants must get city approval. Each private room will have its own sitting area. The facility will have a shared dining and living room, kitchen, shower and laundry area, plus 12 parking spaces for staff and visitors.

City planning staff, which supports the project, said the proposed use is compatible with surrounding operations, including the hospital and 40 new units of townhomes for immigrant families at the International House at San Tomasso, an ongoing development by Testa Cos. between Summa St. Thomas Hospital and St. Anthony of Padua Church.

 

Reach Doug Livingston at dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3792.