The Community Improvement Corporation has identified filling empty storefronts one of its main goals, and the organization is working with commercial Realtors to make it easier for them to market vacant property. The focus of discussion so far has been decreasing the amount of time it takes to get approval to make modifications to existing buildings.
The Foxboro Square shopping center is getting a Goodwill store to anchor the plaza, after years of standing empty. The news comes as the township’s Community Improvement Corp. works with real-estate agents to better market its vacant commercial space.
The new store and donation center, expected to open in mid-2014, will occupy the former Jack’s supermarket and expand south into a space totaling close to 17,000 square feet, said Mary Moriarty, vice president of retail operations for Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio.
“We’re excited to be finally getting into the Jackson community,” she said. “We think it’s going to be a great addition to that area.”
The township’s CIC has identified filling empty storefronts as one of its main goals and has been in conversation with commercial real-estate agents about how the township can them help lure businesses to vacant facilities. The focus of discussion so far has been decreasing the amount of time it takes to get approval to make modifications to existing buildings.
Michael Thompson, CIC president, said the board strives to help businesses in the township. After looking at infrastructure, he realized this was one thing the group could do to make a difference.
“We have a number of storefronts that are empty,” he said.
‘NO. 1 CONCERN’
As of October 2011, there were 153 vacant commercial and office properties in the township, six of which were marked as new, according to a list maintained by the township. By September of last year, there were 177, with six designated as new. The same year, the township’s zoning office issued nine permits for new commercial businesses, according to data from the office.
Most of the empty storefronts were clustered in plazas along Dressler Road NW, Fulton Drive NW and Whipple Avenue NW.
Last year, several Realtors were invited to a meeting with the CIC to address issues they had marketing properties in the township. Thompson said “overwhelmingly their No. 1 concern” was how long it takes to gain approval from the county to make improvements to property.
Brant Luther, Stark County administrator, said for a change of occupancy, an occupant submits floor plans and, as long as the structure meets the exit and fire codes, the process to get approval should take one to two weeks.
There haven’t been formal discussions with the township regarding the speed of approval, but the building department is taking a comprehensive look at its process as it prepares for some turnover, Luther said. The county will be hiring a new chief building official and commercial plans examiner in the coming weeks.
Dan Spring is president of NAI Spring, the company that handles leasing for the HillsDale shopping center on Whipple Avenue NW, with the Acme Fresh Market. He said the length of time it takes to get approval to make modifications to a building is a problem he runs into when trying to lease space.
A minor change, such as putting up a wall, can delay a project four or five months, in his experience.
Spring said the shopping center has three vacancies, the largest being the 20,000 square foot building that formerly housed Village Discount. He said he’s “actively working” with two potential deals, but he didn’t know whether he’d be able to sway the companies because there’s “a lot of red tape” involved.
According to the township’s most recent count of vacant properties from 2012, one of the emptiest centers was Springbrook Plaza. Jackson Township-based Fitzpatrick Properties bought the plaza earlier this year.
Elaine McCrimmon, who’s marketing the property, said the concentration has been on fixing the roof and the parking areas, but she has received positive feedback from brokers in Cleveland — and business looks good.
In Foxboro, the Goodwill has signed a 10-year lease and expects to put $1.3 million into the project, Moriarty said.
The store joins other major tenants, such as Team East Coast Martial Arts and Rite Aid.
Steve Eisenberg, president and CEO of Arnold J. Eisenberg, has been handling Foxboro Square leasing for about a year. Now that this national tenant is coming in, residents can expect to see parking lot work and facade renovation to “once and for all make this property more aesthetically pleasing,” he said.
Some Stark County residents have been circulating an online petition to encourage the owner of the neighboring former roller rink to sell the property or clean it up. Records from the Stark County auditor’s office list the owner of both the former supermarket and the entertainment center as Foxboro Fulton Center Ltd., Robert G. Nieto and Associates.
Eisenberg said there are several other chains interested in opening a store in the shopping center, and he’s working on a deal that would bring an additional anchor to Foxboro.
“It really could be absolutely beyond wonderful,” he said.
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