First Interstate Properties Takes Next Step Toward Buying Oakwood Site in Cleveland Heights
Announcement comes just days before the South Euclid public meeting on rezoning its portion of the land
The developer hoping to build on the Oakwood Country Club site announced Monday it has exercised its option to purchase the 92-acre portion of land that falls within Cleveland Heights.
First Interstate Properties of Lyndhurst purchased 62 acres on the South Euclid side back in December and plans to create a mix of parkland, retail and residential properties.
First Interstate is known for developing Legacy Village, Willoughby Commons, Steelyard Commons and Avon Commons.
“We are actively looking at a wide variety of non-retail options for 75 acres in Cleveland Heights, so we haven’t submitted any plans yet to the city,” said First Interstate president Mitchell Schneider in a press release. “Our plan is to come up with a realistic, economically-feasible plan bringing a mix of housing, senior care facilities and high paying jobs to this parcel of land, while still preserving a green, campus-like environment that can be enjoyed by the entire community.”
According to the press release, plans call for a 21-acre park, including one mile of walking and biking trails, and a 40-acre “LEED-certified and sustainably-designed” shopping center on the South Euclid Portion of the property. The shopping center will be about 325,000 square feet.
On the Cleveland Heights side will be a 20-acre expansion of the retail shopping center and another 25 acres surrounding the clubhouse for “senior-oriented housing,” if the plan is approved. Additional non-retail options are slated for the remaining land, which is currently zoned for residential property and would have to be rezoned.
The announcement comes just days before a public hearing is to be held in South Euclid on rezoning the land there from residential to commercial. The hearing will be at 7 p.m. Thursday in Council chambers, 1349 S. Green Road. The city planning commission will take the opinions made into account when it gives its recommendation to City Council.
Residents at Monday's Cleveland Heights City Council meeting voiced their concerns about the proposed development, mainly over the possibility of big-box stores being built there.
Fran Mentch, president of the Severance Neighborhood Organization, a nonprofit in Cleveland Heights that created the Citizens for Oakwood project to advocate that the area be converted to parkland, said she is worried that stores at Oakwood will snatch business from establishments like Zagara's Marketplace.
Though no specific plans have been announced yet, she's worried that a Wal-Mart will move in.
"This is our community. We will not permit you to destroy it for a few bucks," Mentch said, adding that other parts of the city should be developed before the Oakwood site.
Cleveland Heights resident Susan Miller also spoke about her opposition to developing the land.
"There is retail in Cleveland Heights, there's retail in University Heights, Lyndhurst, Beachwood, all around. But South Euclid doesn't have their little piece," Miller said.
First Interstate has created a Facebook page to specifically address the concerns, and has already answered a variety of questions on its wall. The page can be found at www.facebook.com/OakwoodCommons. The company also has a site for the project at www.oakwoodcommons.net.
South Euclid Councilman Dennis Fiorelli, at-large, said he understands the opposition to the development, but that the proposal by First Interstate is worth hearing out.
"Oakwood gives us choice and that's a good thing to have,” he said. “It's dormant right now and the fact that a developer is coming in and there's an offer on the table instead of being stuck with a dormant golf course is a good thing.”
Fiorelli said he’d like to hear more about the proposal before he decides on how he’ll vote, but already has an idea for what he’d like to see: a mix of green space and retail shopping.
“I think something that offers a combo of both, he said. “I'd like to see a fair amount of green space in terms of parks and any type of retail I'd like to see developed with a sense of green standards.”
Cleveland Heights Patch editor Michelle Simakis contributed to this report.