Pine-Richland shoppers: Have you been to the Shoppes at Northway lately? Wondering what will happen to it?
Levey and Co. envisions a mixed-use facility featuring restaurants, retail, office space and entertainment in the mall on McKnight Road in Ross.
The Akron-based company bought the 438,900-square-foot Shoppes at Northway earlier this week and has an agreement to buy the former Northway Elementary School.
Representatives of Levey & Co. spoke to a standing-room-only crowd Wednesday night about the developers' plans for the property, formerly called Northway Mall, and the adjacent school property.
The meeting was held on the upper level of the mall, outside the entrance to the Dick's Sporting Goods store.
Gary G. O'Nesti, special projects director for Levey & Co., said first and foremost, the company was seeking to rezone the Northway Elementary property from residential to commercial. That application is scheduled to go before the Ross Township planning commission on Dec. 20.
O'Nesti told the crowd of over 200 that plans for the mall and school property are in the very preliminary stages and he hopes many of the current tenants are part of the new mall.
"It's a mixed hybrid facility. We've talked with seven to eight tenants so far," he said. "This is a very desirable location, what we need to do is work through the process. We're talking to everybody, and that's what we need to do at this point."
Many in the audience expressed concern about increased traffic, particularly if the current entrance to Northway Elementary off of Brown's Lane becomes another access point for the new mall.
Commissioner Peter Ferraro tried to ease those fears.
"We recognize there's a lot of concerns from the residents and we intend to address all these concerns that you have," he said. "The traffic on Brown's Lane will at the forefront of the discussions we will have with Levey and Co. We'll do whatever we can to alleviate the congestion that you are concerned about on Brown's Lane."
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Will residents have a say in what happens?
O'Nesti: "The most important thing that we can do is to listen to what you have to say. The thing that I think everybody understands is that you grew up with this mall, it's been here all these years, and you know how it functions. What we don't want to do is to come in and make it function differently, or create something that may be detrimental to not only to us, but to the neighborhood."
Q: When will the work begin?
A: It will be at least 18 months before any real construction work begins.
Q: What will be built on the Northway Elementary Property?
A: No decisions have been made yet.
Q: Will there be a Wal-Mart?
O'Nesti: "We have talked to a number of big box retailers, we have not had any discussions with Wal-Mart on this particular project and this particular location."
Q: How is Levey & Co. going to succeed where the previous owners of the mall failed?
O'Nesti: What has to happen here is that we need to be innovative and creative with the mall. We have to evaluate what the shortcomings have been, and how we make those shortcomings better. How we create a better atmosphere for retail. It's got to be studied and done and done right. Then we have to have our discussions with the appropriate retailers and Ross Township to understand what we can and cannot do, and then try to make the project work. We're confident that we can do that, that's really what we do. That’s what we're real good at.
Q: With McCandless Crossing just north of the Shoppes at Northway, is there really enough demand for even more retail development?
O'Nesti: "Clearly there's enough demand for that kind of development around here."
Q: What will be included in the new Northway Mall?
O'Nesti: "It'll be a mixed-use development with retail, restaurants hopefully, entertainment, something that will enhance the property and enhance the environment for shopping in the area and on this property. That's part of the challenge to work through that and then get it to work and get the facility to operate appropriately."
Q: Why did Shoppes at Northway fail?
Kevin Fallon, vice president of development for Levey & Co.: "When you first come to this facility, as I did, I was dumbfounded. I felt like I was in Alice in Wonderland and I just walked into a rabbit hole. Office space buried here, there are huge footprints of retailers everywhere, and it was just all cobbled together. I think that's part of the problem. I think somebody has to take a step back and plan for a well-thought-out, well-planned retail mix and pedestrian mix, and figure it out."
Q: What will the new mall look like?
A: A few preliminary drawings were presented. The architects for the project are Cupkovic Architecture of Cleveland. Click here to see some of their previous work.
Peter Ferraro: "For Northway mall, in my opinion, it's a godsend because this mall is dying. If you can't recognize that, you are missing the boat. I've lived here for 42 years, and I can see how it's on the decline. The last thing you want to have is an empty mall. Development is just going to go further north. They'll be up at McCandless Crossing. And your tax base is going to erode and your taxes will increase. I don't want to see anyone's taxes raised. Now we see an infusion of McKnight Road properties. I would venture to say that in the next couple of years you would see a decrease in your taxes."
John Schalcosky, president of Ross Township Historical Society: "I think it's great what they're doing, bringing it back to life, especially since it's been dying for so long. For historic reasons, for a mall to be a mall, that's what's important. As for the traffic problems, what about when the mall was an active mall? I mean really. It's not going to impact it that much."
John Franko, nearby resident: "I'm all for it, I've been coming to this mall for 45 years and I do agree that something has to be done for it. I hope it's successful and I wish them luck, but I'm waiting to see what they do with the traffic."
Craig Linner, president of Ross Economic Development: "I think it's a great idea. I think we need it. I think the issues that were brought up were legitimate, but I think what we need to realize is that when this mall was an ongoing concern, and when the school was up and functioning as a school, there was a lot of traffic then. We don't have that level of traffic now and we could just go back to what it used to be. I think either way if we address the traffic issues this mall is important to the community.
What do you think of these plans? What would like to see in the mall? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.
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