Sunday, April 3, 2011

Retail Vacancies, the Ross Economic Development Committee and Self-Serving Township Commissioners (Kinross, Stanko and Mazur)

It was pointed out to me over the weekend, that the shopping center on McKnight Road that is home to Pool City is looking at foreclosure. Wells Fargo bank started foreclosure proceedings March 1st on the property, citing that the mortgage hasn't been paid in 4 months.

I can't believe that Blockbuster's departure made the property fall into foreclosure?!!?

I certainly hope that this can be resolved as we don't need another major retail vacancy on McKnight Road.  There is already a vacancy where Roth Carpet and Burtons Pet Place were.  There are significant retail vacancies as you travel along the McKnight Road corridor and some of them have been sitting empty for quite a long time.  It does seem like every time one vacancy is filled, another one opens up.

What is Ross Township doing to address this?  The Township's Economic Development Committee (RED) holds meetings a few times a year.  What is a RED meeting you ask? Well it is a meeting where business representatives from Ross Township are invited to a luncheon hosted by the leaders of the RED -- Commissioners Kinross, Stanko and Mazur.  In essence these events function as networking events where Ross Township businesses can network with other Ross Township businesses.  It also provides Commissioner Kinross with a setting to sell insurance policies for his insurance business, Commissioner Stanko to sell printing services for her husband's printing business (North Hills Printing) and Commissioner Mazur with an venue for promoting Mazur autobody.  From the notice I saw in the McKnight Journal, the last luncheon was held at Sieb's Pub on March 8th.

It us our belief that the RED committee needs new direction and new leadership or it needs to be scrapped in its entirety and replaced with new committee or other municipal entity that would be responsible to economic development and redevelopment in the Township.  It can no longer exist to serve the personal business interests of of Commissioners Kinross, Stanko and Mazur rather than the best interest of the taxpayers. 

The new leadership of the RED, or the leadership of its successor, must work with other interested members of the community, including the businesses and other stake holders from all three of the Township's commercial districts --McKnight Road, Babcock Boulevard and Perry Highway.  The new leadership must develop and implement a well thought out, long-term game plan on how to revitalize the McKnight Road, Babcock Boulevard and Perry Highway commercial districts.  The focus should start on McKnight, but should also include the others.  Otherwise, McKnight Road is in danger of being taken over by Chinese massage parlors, check cashing stores, mattress stores, and temporary seasonal Halloween costume stores!

What do you think?  Let your voice be heard and comment below!


  1. McCandless Crossing represents one of the challenges Ross is facing. The new shopping center will be state of the art, feature big-name businesses, and will be completely new construction.

    The last item is important. Many of the vacant structures along McKnight Road are old, constructed for a specific purpose, and are difficult to fill due to the size/nature of the property. A good example is Northway Mall. The size of a retail store in 1962 was far smaller than what a retailer typically needs in 2011. PetSmart is a perfect example--it takes up about a half-dozen former Northway stores. You can clunk these stores together all you want, but sooner or later, you're going to be unable to do that.

    The model we need to take is to build anew. I travel to Columbus, OH once or twice a year on average and have done so for the past decade. It always amazes me how well Columbus can redevelop land, and they do so by tearing everything down and building something modern. Easton Town Center and the Arena District are two prime examples of this. Granted, the geography in central Ohio is easier to work with, and residents of Columbus aren't going to be as sentimental over losing some old building, but it needed to be done and has made the city a haven for commercial ventures. Columbus often gets a business long before we do--in 2001, they had an Apple Store and a Cheesecake Factory at Easton Town Center. I also ate at California Pizza Kitchen, shopped at Nordstrom, and browsed furniture at Crate & Barrel in Columbus long before those stores showed up in the North Hills. I'll probably be going back soon and will certainly find something new that we won't get for another 10 years.

  2. The North Hills has long lost out on stores to other areas, namely Cranberry, Robinson, and, to a lesser extent, the South Hills. Looking at the area, I can see why. We have an upscale mall nearly filled to capacity, a big box center filled to capacity which suffers from traffic problems, a decrepit mall designed for 1962-sized stores, strip malls with small or specially-constructed spaces, and a bunch of "odds and ends" type buildings which work best for holes in the wall or fast food places.

    We haven't had a daring new construction in the North Hills since Frank Nascone developed Ross Park Mall nearly three decades ago. Since then, only Ross Park and North Hills Village, both of which have reinvented themselves, have attracted decent stores. Simon is a huge part of Ross Park becoming what it is--they seem to have most of the control over what comes and goes. It's a shame Simon doesn't control all of McKnight Road, because I'm sure they'd tear down something to allow a new tenant to rebuild, just as they got rid of the old Horne's to allow Nordstrom to come in.

    Of course, there's also traffic issues. Pool City Plaza is awful for those traveling southbound. The old Pace/Sam's/former rumored Wal-Mart site would have required an additional traffic signal. McKnight Road will need to be re-worked a bit if something big goes in.

    My advice is this--advise property owners to bulldoze unneeded structures. If I were building an On the Border, for example, I'd rather place it at a corner with a light where the development possibilities look to be endless, not a place where I see a vacant Roth Carpet/Pet Supplies Plus store. Also, extol the virtues of the area--you've got upscale Ross Park Mall, which only has a few sit-down restaurants and not a lot of mid-level stores, plus you still have a good bus route along the road. Finally, it may be time to say goodbye to some of our landmarks, including Northway. Its time has come and gone, and as much as I hate to say this, we need to get rid of structures like Northway, which aren't viable for modern development.

    Take a trip to Columbus and look at the newer areas. This could be Ross Township.

  3. I agree about Northway Mall being outdated but from what I understand, the main problem is the mall management. They are awful.

    When Ross Park became more upscale and gave some merchants the boot, Northway Mall should've made stronger attempts to woo them. And now an opportunity to open a branch of Northland Library, which would guarantee a lot of foot traffic, lands in their lap and they basically stick their nose up.

    When I was once a writer for the McKnight Journal, it would always piss me off that many Ross commissioners would always kiss mall management's butt. I never could understand that.

  4. Very insightful comments MacMan! I think North Hills Village has found moderate success because they were able to think outside the box and re-invent the structure. I remember when it was going through the renovations, many were skeptical that turning it into a strip mall would be successful.

    NHTattler, I agree with you on the managment of Northway. They could have pulled in a few of the stores that were vacating Ross Park with some effort. They seem to be stuck in the mud. I guess it's better to let Career Training Academy use store space instead of letting the library open up a spot. I still remember all the traffic that was that the temporary location for the library generated for that place the last time.

  5. Just an fyi, Blockbuster's departure did not make the property fall into foreclosure. Blockbuster left in the middle of February, and the foreclosure was first revealed in the beginning of March. The owner had not paid the mortgage in 4 months. Do the math.

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