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Construction expected to begin at Cedar Center North in South Euclid in 30-60 days

Tuesday, October 25, 2011
By Jeff Piorkowski, Sun News

SOUTH EUCLID — Construction on a major phase of Cedar Center North is expected to begin within 30-60 days. Cedar Center developer and Coral Co. President Peter Rubin and Coral Vice President of Development Jeffrey Epstein made the announcement at the Sept. 12 City Council meeting.

Earlier that day, at Coral Co. headquarters on Shaker Square in Cleveland, Epstein told the Sun Messenger of plans for the development of 60,000 square feet of retail space, and showed a site plan that has been honed over the past six months.

This development phase will take place in the center of Cedar Center and will feature construction work by Coral’s partner, DeVille Developments of Canton.

“We’ve all been working on this through a very difficult economic climate,” Epstein said. “Despite that climate we’re going to complete this development. We expect by the end of 2012, we’ll be full and phase one will be open for business.”

Signed leases
Epstein said lease agreements have been signed with several businesses, while others are still being negotiated. He said within a week or two, names of the businesses will be revealed. Coral is obligated to have buildings ready by the second quarter of 2012 for those who have signed leases. It is known five restaurants have signed leases. Those restaurants will feature outdoor dining. Three of the restaurants will be built in the front lot of Cedar Center, amidst parking areas and behind extensive landscaping shielding them from the road.

The look

The plan calls for about 42,000 square feet of retail buildings situated in a contiguous line at the rear, or north end of Cedar Center. These buildings will have varying materials fronting them and will be of differing heights, in order to give each storefront its own look and to give aesthetic variety to the line of stores.

Epstein said the first phase will feature bike racks throughout and make it easy for pedestrians to move about. Two driveways/walkways entering the development from Cedar Road, will be aligned with walkways and crosswalks leading from the south side of Cedar.

Looking from Cedar into the development from the center main entrance, patrons will see one of two “civic areas,” this one measuring about 25 feet in length and 150 feet in width. Just north of this civic space will be a storefront featuring lighted “Cedar Center North” letters above a building.

A second civic area, about 50 by 100 feet, will be located just to the west. Here, there should be enough space for outdoor civic functions, as are now done at Lyndhurst’s Legacy Village. Epstein said of the tenants that will make up the main buildings along the north side, “These are all national tenants that act as magnets for other tenants (who could come in the subsequent two phases).”

Already built at Cedar Center North, on the far west end, is Gordon Food Service, which is expected to open in about the third week of October. The land immediately surrounding GFS will be part of another phase of building.

Site plans have received approval from the city’s Architectural Review Board and have tentative approval from the Planning Commission. City Council, meanwhile, has been meeting in closed-door, executive sessions in recent weeks discussing the sale of the land to the developers.

Paying the cost

The city received $2 million for the 1.4-acre GFS land earlier this year. The main phase now being discussed would see construction on about five acres. In all, Cedar Center North comprises 12.4 acres.

Four years ago, the city spent $16.4 million to buy Cedar Center, which had become a blighted shopping strip with at least one storefront that had been vacant for 10 years and others in violation of building codes. At the time, 40 percent of the strip was vacant. With interest, that cost escalated to $19.5 million before the sale to GFS.

As time has passed, some residents have questioned whether the investment was a good one and whether taxpayers’ money will ever be recouped. “In the next fiscal year, the city will be able to pay off about $3.5 million,” said Community Services Director Keith Benjamin. With two phases to go, it is unlikely the full amount the city paid will be recovered. The shortfall will be bonded out over the next 20-25 years. It is expected tax money reaped from Cedar Center North will help pay off that debt. Considering the blighted conditions that previously existed, Benjamin said the money is being well-spent.

“The city has a chance to do nothing, or do something for the good of the community,” he said. “Inner ring suburbs have a choice, and you can drive around and see the cities that have done nothing.” Benjamin said the development will greatly help the West Five streets to the north of Cedar Center North property. These streets have been among the hardest-hit by foreclosure, with some having as much as 40 percent vacancy.

“I think people forget what Cedar Center looked like before,” Benjamin said. “This (new development) is something that’s going to be around for the next 35-50 years. It’s something that will create jobs for people working at the stores, and construction jobs.” Mayor Georgine Welo said the need to revitalize Cedar Center is something mayors and council had discussed for nearly two decades.

“The old Cedar Center was an example of a blighting influence. The city’s efforts at Cedar Center are not unlike municipal economic development/neighborhood stabilization activities that other first suburbs in our region, and across the country, have undertaken to maintain, revitalize and stabilize their communities and neighborhoods,” Welo said at the Sept. 12 council meeting.