Town Center retail development unveiled for Firestone Farms

COLUMBIANA – An extensive plan for a new development along state Route 7 outside of the city was unveiled Tuesday night.

Tom Mackall of Firestone Homestead LLC and the owner of East Fairfield Coal Co. presented his plans to the city’s planning commission.

Firestone Homestead purchased the property along state Route 7 in April of last year.

The 62 parcels of mostly undeveloped land in Unity and Fairfield townships were sold at sheriff’s sale in the Columbiana County Courthouse.

It proceeded as a private property foreclosure, with the parcels offered as one tract of land. It is the same property targeted for development more than 10 years ago by Meadowbrooke Development LLC.

Until the April sale the city was paying back a $7 million 20-year obligation bond it took out in 2001 to pay for sewer lines to the development. Meadowbrooke was supposed to pay the city back from the sale of houses there but failed to do so after going bankrupt.

Firestone Homestead purchased the property for $4.9 million, two-thirds of its appraised value of $7.3 million. Money owed the city was paid back in the form of a special assessment.

The new development is not a financial responsibility of the city but completely a Firestone Homestead project, Mackall said.

City Manager Lance Willard said the city’s water, sewer, electric and street superintendents met with Mackall prior to the commission meeting to ensure the departments could handle the capability of the expansion.

“He (Mackall) is aware of the water lines that needs done. The electric is already there. All we have to do is run it near Prima back towards him,” Willard said of the water line.

He added any electric transformers would be underground and the responsibility of the complex once metered in.

As Mackall presented the plans to the commission he stressed he does not want to “over promise and under deliver.”

The plans include three buildings that encompass 100,000 square feet along state Route 7 near Prima Health Care and additional buildings along state Route 7 on the other side of state Route 14, near the Columbiana Maze Craze. He already owns that property and said the Maze Craze would need to move in the future.

The portion near Prima Health Care would be known as the Town Center at Firestone Farms and the three buildings would feature shops, restaurants and offices, he said.

The other side of state Route 14 would be known as The Marketplace at Firestone Farms and feature a retail plaza, hotel, bank, grocery store, auto parts store and fast food restaurants.

The project would span 10 years and Mackall hopes to have at least one of the three Town Center buildings done next year. He is working with two local real estate agents on marketing and is seeking tenants for the buildings, he added.

Alan Ricks, broker and managing member of PDP Realty Advisors, said some interest has been shown in the planned development over the last five to six months as he and Mackall have been working out the details.

However, before anyone can be given assurance of moving in the plan will need final approval and the required permits in place.

The commission was presented with a concept review Tuesday and an official site plan will be forthcoming.

Mackall has already contacted neighboring residents regarding the planned development and said there have been no objections.

“We are anxious to get started,” he said, adding he intends to present a liquor option to voters in May, should the plan move forward. “The important part of the success of our development will be whether we can get liquor licenses … without that it will be difficult.”

Once completed the development would be similar to Easton Mall in Columbus, he added. He also described it as a modern version of Columbiana during the Harvey Firestone era.

“The concept was we’d like to do something to honor the history of Columbiana,” he said.

The Town Center would also feature a clock tower, and a traffic circle is planned for one of the two road entrances south of state Route 14. One entrance is located on state Route 14 and the other on state Route 7, he said.

Firestone Homestead has already hired a firm to conduct a traffic study in that area and he anticipates it will reveal a need for turn-by-turn lanes.

“You need it anyway, whether we are there or not,” he said of the turning lanes. The city has attempted to seek grant funding from the Ohio Department of Transportation for turning lanes at the intersection but so far the attempt has not proven fruitful.

Planning Commission member Crystal Siembida-Boggs asked if the plans included any overhead or underground walkways for foot traffic.

Mackall said pedestrians would use a fire entrance that would be developed into a walkway behind the Town Center. The entrance would still be accessible to fire trucks, but other vehicle traffic would be prohibited, he explained.

Additional walkways could be added in the future as the need arises, he added.

The concept review as approved by the commission.