JACKSON TWP.  The Strip Shopping Center in Jackson Township is a popular spot for shopping with big name stores such as Wal-Mart, Lowes, Giant Eagle and Best Buy. Not only are there places to shop, but plenty of restaurants, too, which bring in big crowds daily.

Strip Avenue currently dead ends behind Home Depot and will be extended north to connect to Applegrove Street this summer. The extension of the road could lead to more development in an area that has struggled to take off.

Jackson Township Economic Development Director Randy Gonzalez said The Strip is extremely successful, but the approximately 57 acres behind Home Depot is a tough piece of property with wetlands and varying grades in the land. He said through the years several developers have looked at developing the property, but nothing has prevailed.

Currently Fitzpatrick Properties is looking to develop the land, but Gonzalez said he doesn’t believe it has a tenant lined up.

"There is a dire need to extend the road," Gonzalez said. "Once we build the road, traffic will flow better and it will open the area up to economic development."

Jackson Township Trustee Todd Hawke also called the property tough.

"It is a prime piece of property in proximately to Interstate 77," Hawke said. "Even though it is prime, it has some challenges."

Gonzalez knows the area can be successful as The Strip already is across the street. He said the Best Buy is one of the top selling Best Buys in the country and he also said spaces don’t stay vacant long, which was the case when Borders closed and Books-A-Million opened soon after.

Gonzalez also said the area around Strip Avenue is unique on the north side of Portage Street in that one business sits down low and then a neighboring business is on a large hill. Original plans in the area from the 1980s show the road being constructed, but it was never built.

In order to construct the road, a lot of dirt has to be moved, two retention ponds have to be built and a gas line has to be relocated. Gonzalez said the township has been working with Dominion for a while to get the gas line moved.

"There are only certain times of the year you can move a gas line," Gonzalez said.

The township expects to award the contract for the road project at the end of May with an expected cost of about $1.7 million. Construction will likely begin in early summer, which will include installing curb and gutter. Once the project is complete, the township will be in charge of maintaining the road.

"The goal is to have it done by the end of the year," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said not only will dirt be being moved to construct the road, but dirt will be moved on the land by Fitzpatrick to prepare for future development. With the construction of the road will come some relief for traffic on Whipple Avenue and Frank Avenue.

"It’s is going to free up so much traffic," Gonzalez said.

He said Frank Avenue and Whipple Avenue cannot be widened anymore without having a major impact on many businesses, which sit close to the road.

All of the land behind Home Depot is in a Joint Economic Development District, Gonzalez said, which means there is a 2 percent income tax collected with 1 percent going to Jackson and 1 percent going to Canton.

"We feel it is one of our most marketable areas," Gonzalez said.

As far as what could be built on the land, the township is open to any ideas that will bring jobs. Gonzalez and Hawke said it could be more retail, medical or even something completely different.

"I think the market is going to drive what is going to happen there," Gonzalez said.