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Solar deadline puts heat on city process
Solar deadline puts heat on city process
By SUE REID
A site plan for the Solar shopping center redevelopment and nearly 20 zoning variances received the Solon planning commission's blessings last week, although more than 10 conditions were included.
"It's not a tidy bow here," commission member William M. Mazur said. "There are open issues I'd like to address as contingencies and let City Council follow up," he said. "It's a work in progress."
City Council was to consider the matter this week.
An expanded Giant Eagle supermarket, which is the plaza's anchor tenant, is a major part of the project. And a Get-Go gas station, which is associated with the Pittsburgh-based supermarket chain, is to be built on the site in conjunction with it.
The new 11,689-square-foot retail out-parcel building would be located to the rear of the Fifth Third Bank and DO Sommers buildings. The current Giant Eagle space is about 54,000 square feet, and the new supermarket building is proposed at 92,635 square feet. The existing shopping center is 143,157 square feet. Approximately 70 percent of the plaza would be torn down, and 29,644 square feet would be preserved with a new facade
The commission recommended that council address the conditions in its review. They include safety forces' approval of the location and spacing of gaps through the perimeter buffer fence, approval by safety forces and the building department of the Get-Go gas station setback from the adjacent Sprint building and compliance with all engineering and storm-water requirements.
Mr. Mazur said it's not typical for planners to let a project proceed through the process with so many conditions attached, "but expediency is driving us farther."
He referred to April 12 deadline stipulated by the Perlick-Caplin family, which currently owns the shopping center at the southeast corner of Aurora (Route 43) and SOM Center (Route 91) roads, for its sale to Echo Development, of Pittsburgh. Echo was given 120 days from the it signed a purchase agreement to make a final commitment.
"They need planning commission and council approvals before they are willing to close the deal," Solon Planning Director Robert S. Frankland explained.
"There are drop-dead dates rapidly approaching," Law Director Thomas Lobe said. "Those deadlines were imposed onto Echo. City Council was advised of that going in."
Philip A. Bishop, vice president for Echo Development, told the commission that Echo continues to work diligently with the city. "We are not looking to circumvent any requirements of the city," he said, but his company needs to be ready to complete the purchase by April 12.
Changes made to the project in the last couple of weeks as a result of administrative work sessions include more glass spandrels being added to the retail center.
"We use it to break up blank facades," Mr. Frankland said. "It gives the appearance of windows and glass where they are not."
Modifications were made to the out-parcel building, which has frontage on SOM Center. Mr. Frankland said the rear of the building was facing the road, and it looked like a utility entrance. "They followed our recommendations, and now the back of the building will mimic the front," he said.
The developer also worked to refine the redeveloped portion of the existing plaza, he said, with "interesting changes in roof line and color."
More awnings and canopies were added to the north elevation facing Aurora Road.
"The buffer strip was an issue of great concern due to the neighbors," Mr. Frankland said. "We met with neighbors and our safety forces to accommodate needs of adjacent property owners and police and fire," he said.
"We've been refining the site plan and trying to get more interior green space," he said. Maximizing that green space includes planting trees to give it a more "vertical element," he said.
The city's landscape architect suggested that all entrances use brick pillars with decorative metal fencing, "which will better denote the entryways and is a nice access feature," Mr. Frankland said.
"It will be a substantial upgrade to the existing center," Mr. Bishop said. "It meets the master plan and will be a great asset to the city.
"We are willing to do almost anything requested that is reasonable," he said. "We are here for the long haul."
Councilwoman and commission member Toni M. Richmond asked when they would be ready to break ground.
Mr. Bishop said phase one would begin immediately after the April 12 purchase date and involve the demolition of the southernmost wing of the plaza, which runs perpendicular to SOM Center Road. At the same time, they will start building an out-parcel building behind the Fifth Third Bank branch to accommodate some of the tenants, he said.
"It's a complex plan to demolish, build and move the tenants," Mr. Frankland said, noting that the goal is to accomplish the work without ceasing current operations.
Building the Get-Go gas station also is to take place in the initial phase, Mr. Bishop said. The pad for the new Giant Eagle would be delivered in the fall, and the new store would be complete by late spring or early summer of 2013, he said. "The next year and a half we will be awfully busy."
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