COLUMBIANA - Tom Mackall was confident voters would support liquor options on the May 6 election ballot, but he never thought they would have passed by such a large margin.
"I appreciate the vote of support from the community and feel a lot of responsibility to not disappoint them with what we need up there," he said of the extensive new development planned for the property not far from the Firestone Farms housing development. "I was really surprised, I never thought we would get that kind of support."
Mackall had asked for the liquor options in precincts C and D in order to attract restaurants and grocery stores to locate there. The options passed by more than 70 percent in precinct C and more than 80 percent in precinct D, with significantly more votes cast in precinct D.
The restaurants and grocery stores would be a part of the Town Center and Marketplace at Firestone Farms, a project headed up by Mackall's Firestone Homestead LLC, which purchased the 62 parcels of mostly undeveloped land along state Routes 7 and 14 at sheriff's sale in April of 2012.
Mackall said significant interest has already been shown by business owners targeting the development as a possible location now that the precincts are allowing alcohol sales.
Before the election he had said it would be very difficult to attract the kinds of businesses he envisioned for the development if the options did not pass.
The project is now moving forward swiftly, and Firestone Homestead LLC only recently purchased the home on the northeast corner of the intersection across from the Columbiana Maze Craze for the purpose of using it as a sales office.
"We had tried to buy it earlier but couldn't agree on a price. It fits right in. It was a little bit of a sore thumb for our project so I'm happy we were able to work it out and buy that property," he said.
Firestone acquired the two-story, century-old home on one acre for $150,000.
Civil engineering plans and Phase I of the construction plans for the project will be presented to the city's planning commission June 10, and Mackall said those plans include the installation of water retention and road entrances.
A bid package for Phase I is being prepared now, with the bid going out in February of 2015, Mackall said.
While the project has gathered some steam since the election he is somewhat disappointed ground won't be broken this year.
"I wish we could do it sooner but we aren't going to be able to have it for inside construction for the winter. I don't want to start and then have a terrible winter like we had last winter and then ruin the project," he said.
The goal is to have the stores and restaurants open by May of 2016.
He did not wish to disclose what stores or restaurants are showing an interest now, as nothing has been finalized.
"It's been interesting. Now that we are getting with the finite plan and timetable more will happen, I think," he said.