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New outlook urged for city's shopping centers
New outlook urged for city's shopping centers
By SUE REID
Solon's first master plan in 35 years focuses on what city Planning Director Robert S. Frankland terms the "most crucial and challenging planning segments," the city's commercial core. He released the initial installment of the plan last week.
Still considered in draft form, the plan for the central retail district calls for the city to actively encourage the current owners of the four core shopping centers to pursue redevelopment options. It also calls for them to consider partnering with outside entities where feasible in order to increase access to reinvestment capital.
In addition, the plan provides recommendations for an entirely new zoning classification plan for the commercial area.
Mr. Frankland said the plan establishes policies the city "might" follow and provides recommendations for a time frame of 10 to 15 years.
The central retail district plan addresses such questions as: what general economic development strategies are appropriate for the area; how should specific sites within the commercial retail district redevelop; what is the appropriate zoning and land-use pattern for the area; and what infrastructure improvements should be considered within the commercial retail district.
"Ultimately, the crucial connection between maintaining the viability of the core shopping centers and maintaining the overall viability of the central retail district cannot be overstated," the plan said. "Much is at stake."
The city needs to leave all options "on the table" in order to achieve the redevelopment of the Solar Shopping Center on Aurora Road (Route 43), Solon Square Shopping Center on Aurora Road, Uptown Solon on Kruse Drive and SOM Centre Plaza, with Sears Grand, Marc's Discount Drug and Carter Lumber on SOM Center Road (Route 91). That includes the active marketing of the commercial areas, the subsidization of quality redevelopment opportunities; and the potential use of eminent domain to accomplish the community's redevelopment goals, if necessary.
The city's central retail district is anchored by the four core shopping centers, the plan said. With the exception of Uptown Solon Shopping Center, the newest of the four, the others have recommendations which involve tearing down and rebuilding of the existing buildings.
"The successful redevelopment of the core shopping centers provides the key to maintaining and enhancing the integrity of the central retail district as a whole," the plan said. "Therefore, these centers should serve as the principal strategic focal points for the investment of money and resources within the commercial retail district."
The plan also delves into the future use of these four sites, where the most appropriate use is the provision of general retail services. The only truly viable alternative to the continued retail-service use, however, would be a more targeted variation of the office redevelopment scenario that focuses exclusively on securing medical office uses in a campus setting. This strategy could only reasonably be supported on one site.
The plan also said that while Solon is fortunate in terms of its location and accessibility, the greatest obstacle it faces is that much of its current commercial infrastructure is aging and/or obsolete and not suitable for modern retail users.
"Therefore, the more costly and challenging strategy of redevelopment must be pursued," the plan said.
Furthermore, if Solon is not successful in capturing a substantial portion of the pending market expansion in this area, the central retail district is very likely to continue to decline as retail tenants leave the city to locate in more modern and profitable facilities.
"The recent economic downtown has retarded the pace of new retail development nationwide," the plan said. "However, it is imperative that Solon position itself to aggressively act upon the opportunities that will likely become available once economic conditions improve."
In the area of zoning, it is proposed that the C-1, historic commercial, zoning classification be extended along Bainbridge Road to the east side of SOM Center Road. This zoning extension would replace the existing R-1-C, single-family-residential zoning that is in place on all city-owned properties in this area, and would replace the same zoning on all private property holdings fronting on the north side of Bainbridge Road, opposite of City Hall.
In addition, the plan proposes that the O-1, general office zoning, be implemented on all existing single-family-zoned properties that front on either side of SOM Center Road, between Baldwin and Inwood roads. The proposed zoning is intended to accomplish two principal goals, the plan said. Those are to permit a broader range of uses on residential properties that have been significantly impacted by the SOM Center Road widening project; and to provide for a more logical zoning pattern by accommodating more equivalent land uses on opposing street frontages.
There is also a proposal to implement C/S-2, light commercial/serving zoning on properties on the south side of Aurora Road, between Solon Boulevard and Solon Road in an effort to provide for a more logical zoning pattern by authorizing more equivalent intensity land uses on opposing street frontages.
Mr. Frankland said this first installment is expected to facilitate "substantial input" from City Council, the planning commission and the administration, as well as the general public. All will alter the plan's final form and content, he said.
Subsequent installments of the plan will be released throughout the year. These will include: the economic development plan later this month; the core industrial district plan in May, the residential neighborhood plan in June, as well as the public facilities and infrastructure plan, the parks recreation and open space plan and the demographics and physical inventory analysis later this year.
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