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Thread: Lifestyle center vs deteriorating 1940s plaza: alternative press prefers the latter

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Lifestyle center vs deteriorating 1940s plaza: alternative press prefers the latter

    From the Cleveland Free Times. My photos and commentary follow. (Website down for the past week, so I'm reproducing the article here.)

    Appetite For Destruction
    A South Euclid Redevelopment Plan Makes Sense To Just About Everyone - Except The Owners And Patrons Of The Unique Shops That May Not Survive.
    By Rick Perloff

    "I'll tell you the thing that drives me the most," confides South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo, sitting in her office amidst a desk full of notes, newspaper articles, city memorabilia and a sign her mother gave her proclaiming "Never Never Never Give Up." "I don't like the fact that people have to constantly defend why they live in Northeast Ohio or even the city of South Euclid. It drives me absolutely nuts. I look around and I know in my heart that my children were raised in the best place in America - not a good place, but the best place in America. And I just stop and think to myself, "We need to have a high standard that we have here, we need to continue with it.' And that's what drives me."

    Although Welo did not grow up in South Euclid, she has come to personify the city - its small-town feeling, pride in neighborhoods and occasional defensiveness about living in the shadow of more affluent eastern suburbs. She also has become the synecdoche for South Euclid's gutsy but controversial decision to demolish and redevelop the northern portion of Cedar Center shopping strip.

    South Euclid has adopted a more radical approach to suburban renewal than did University Heights, which is home to the southern side of the strip (across Cedar Road). University Heights accepted a developer's plan to add several new stores, such as Whole Foods and First Watch. But the structure of the mall stayed the same and some of the existing establishments stayed, albeit with an architectural facelift. South Euclid, after years of discussion and frustration with the increasingly dilapidated condition of stores on its side of the mall, opted to invoke the municipal equivalent of the nuclear option: eminent domain. Using the legal and political leverage that eminent domain affords, the city induced the landlords who owned the property to sell their turf to the city. This in turn meant that the shop owners, who pay rent to the landlords, had no lease and had to leave. The stores and restaurants - such as Abba's Market and Grille, Anatolia Café, China Gate, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Jacob's Judaic Book & Gift Center, Peking Gourmet Restaurant and Smokehouse Deli - have either closed or are expected to close over the coming months.

    The city plans to sell the property to the Coral Co., a high-profile local development firm that also owns the University Heights portion, as well as other shopping districts, most notably Shaker Square. Coral will ultimately raze the storied shopping center. In its place, says Coral President Peter L. Rubin, will be a thoroughly modern and attractive outdoor mall, anchored by national chain stores and containing offices, residential housing, restaurants with outdoor dining and a park.

    The local media have gushed with approval. A Plain Dealer article observed that "in place of a tired mishmash of stores, Coral Co. envisions a gleaming row of retail and residential ... to finish the makeover of Cedar Center." The local weekly, the Sun Press, quoted Rubin and South Euclid officials describing the redevelopment plans in upbeat terms. And at first blush, who could disagree? Rubin's plans seem innovative, and Cedar Center is old - it was built in the 1940s, and urban policy experts note that shopping centers have a 50-year lifespan. Change seems inevitable.

    But change involves issues that are far more complicated, conflicted and ethically problematic than those sketched in news articles in the local press. A two-month investigation, featuring scores of interviews with South Euclid officials, shop owners, lawyers, real estate developers and urban policy experts, offers insights into just what happens when a middle-class suburb tries to rejuvenate its commercial base. This is a story of the hopes and dreams of South Euclid's leaders, who want to ensure the long-term survival of their community. It is a story of economic and psychological pain experienced by local merchants who feel let down by the system. And it is a story of how the landlords who owned South Euclid's portion of Cedar Center mall collectively walked away with over $16 million, while the proprietors of the stores that helped build the owners' portfolios received only thousands, and in some cases, nothing.

    The atmosphere in Abba's, the once-bustling Orthodox Jewish delicatessen in Cedar Center, was decidedly eerie last November. With the deli scheduled to close in days, boxes, duct tape and wads of paper towels were strewn across the floor. The awards the restaurant received from the Cleveland Jewish News for its kosher food, once trumpeted as signifiers of success, were distractions now, signposts of an era that was swiftly receding into the past.

    Abba's, the only kosher restaurant in the city that served Chinese food and featured an array of Israeli delicacies, had a loyal following among Orthodox residents. Those days are gone. "If you had been here last Friday, you would have thought it was condolence calls," lamented restaurant manager Shia Neuman. Customers were upset, and the store's employees - cooks, waiters, waitresses - had lost their jobs.

    "I do not want to go on unemployment," Neuman said. "I hope to find a job. I'm not the kind of person who sits back." He was not sure if the restaurant could afford to relocate. "It's a very, very big investment," he said. "Who's going to pay for this?"

    A few doors down, Gayle Glick, manager of Discovery Shop, an American Cancer Society-owned business that sells upscale secondhand goods, insisted that she will keep the store open as long as she can. Showing a visitor the Lenox plates, necklaces and clothing people have donated, she said that "the shop on the whole is very special because all the profits go to cancer research. And its purpose is deep-rooted for the community. We're giving back to them with a lovely little object and they're giving of themselves with what they can afford to give." Listening to her describe the flavor of the shop, a customer volunteered, "I love your store. I wish you were staying."

    Neuman and Glick tried to be philosophical, but could not hide their anger and sadness. "What the city did was to take it upon themselves to present the facts," Glick said. "They said [the mall] was deteriorating. It never was deteriorating to the point they needed to create a reason to take it. But take it they did and take it they were going to do any way they could."

    "You can't fight city hall," Neuman mused, "because, you know, there's lawyers' fees. It's like you have the big bully against this little kid. The little kid can punch as much as he wants. He's going to lose. That's the same thing fighting the city."

    Proprietors of several other stores express similar frustrations. Some are palpably nervous about the future. Ken Lam, manager of Peking Gourmet Restaurant, seems dejected as he considers his prospects. Several Peking employees will lose their jobs, he says. The proprietor of Smokehouse Deli, Igor Shkolnikov, says he thought he would close very soon. "I'm looking for another business [location]," he says. "I know how to make sausages." Was he worried? "Of course. It's my baby."

    Today the mall is quiet. Most of the shops are vacant, with signs in windows announcing new locations. At night, it feels deserted and the green steel beams that sustain the once-storied structure look creaky and archaic.

    Cedar Center has been a major blip on the city's radar screen for over a decade.

    Mindful of the deteriorating condition of the mall and the need to expand the city's industrial tax base, former mayor John T. Kocevar commissioned a report from a downtown planning and development firm. The report, completed in 1999, recommended the city develop a mixed-use mall, with residential, retail and office space. Although Kocevar persuaded the property owners to renovate portions of the mall, he said in a recent interview that he was somewhat frustrated with the pace of renovation, especially as he looked at the progress that was being made in redeveloping the University Heights side across the street and at glistening Legacy Village in nearby Lyndhurst. Eminent domain remained a possibility, but he did not want to "run everybody out."

    Enter Georgine Welo, a prominent former member of South Euclid Council who was elected the city's first female mayor in 2003.

    Although Cedar Center was not a major issue in the mayoral campaign, it soon became a salient agenda item. Councilman Edward Icove recalled that, in 2004, the ceiling of the long-abandoned movie theater fell through, leading to substantial water damage and the appearance of rats. Recognizing that it was time to move decisively on Cedar Center, Welo and her advisers tried to get in touch with the property owners to arrange a discussion. "I personally sent them letters offering to buy their properties at the appraised value that we got from our appraiser, and not one of them even responded back to my offer," says Michael Lograsso, the city's law director. There was "zero response, silence," he adds. (An attorney for the property owners, Sheldon Berns, counters that the property owners believed "the city did not negotiate in good faith and filed suit before they had a chance to respond.")

    Welo grew frustrated with the pace of discussion. Concerned about the mall's deterioration and rapidly dropping home prices in the area near Cedar Center, Welo and her advisers began to weigh eminent domain more seriously. In Ohio, eminent domain allows a city to take property for its own use and sell it to a private developer, provided that it can show that it meets a series of conditions, which traditionally include that the property is significantly blighted.

    If Cedar Center was in fact blighted, then eminent domain seemed a reasonable way of proceeding. And the evidence of blight seemed to be everywhere. There was the pervasive damage to the theater, fire code violations, plus sightings of rats. A city-planning expert reported collapsed roofs, holes in floors and walls, and the absence of sprinkler systems. There was videotaped evidence of graffiti on walls, a wood foundation rotting away, and garbage piled up in vacated retail space. Law Director Lograsso says that the space above the old Huntington Bank was a fire hazard, and there were abandoned offices, feces in toilets, and out-of-date, potentially dangerous parking in the back of the mall.

    "Many of the property owners over the years let their properties deteriorate," says Community Services Director Keith Benjamin. "They did not continue to upgrade their properties to a level of safety and a level of attractiveness that consumers today expect when they go shopping."

    Berns, the attorney for the landlords, argues that the property was not blighted, and that "it would have been helpful if the city had spent some money that could have been used in the upgrading of Cedar Center if their goal was to modernize it."

    Tearing down only the movie theater, which nearly everyone agreed was beyond saving, and encouraging or funding modest improvement in the rest of the mall would have been a less confrontational strategy. But to Welo, that seemed like a short-term fix, at best. By 2005 she was convinced that the landlords were unwilling to talk, let alone sell, that the blight was getting worse, and that the city's long-term economic future hung in the balance. There was no longer room for compromise. "Cedar Center was going," she said, "lock, stock and barrel."

    In fall of 2005, after obtaining expert testimony, council passed a resolution declaring that the South Euclid strip mall was blighted. Eminent domain, the tool of last resort, was now the technique du jour. The battle would continue in the ornate probate court at Lakeside and Ontario.

    The landlords challenged the city in court, questioning whether the mall met the legal definition of blight. Ultimately, however, the landlords opted to settle. They faced increasing legal costs and believed that few tenants would want to rent space in a mall a city was determined to take over, according to attorney Jordan Berns. The probate court judge approved the arrangement, and the big fight was over; all that remained were smaller cases between a handful of landlords and shop owners over the amount of compensation.

    The city forked over $16.4 million to the property owners, floating bonds to finance the purchases. But the store owners received a comparative pittance. And although a couple of cases are still pending, their outcomes are not likely to alter the egregious economic imbalance. Abba's seems to have received the most money - close to $100,000, according to sources close to the case. Jacob's Judaic Book & Gift Center received a $20,000 check, notes Probate Court Magistrate Heidi Koenig. Anatolia Cafe received a total of $30,000, according to Lograsso.

    Other store owners - for example, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Cleveland City Dance, Peking Gourmet Restaurant and the American Cancer Society - could not even file a claim. Their leases stated that if the shopping center were taken under eminent domain, they could make no claim for compensation.

    All this is perfectly legal. Even though the store owners' success contributed to the value of the property - and therefore the profits the landlords received from selling to South Euclid - many had no legal claim on the money. A contract is a contract. But here's the rub: Leases are typically written to serve the interests of landlords, not tenants. "Tenants and landlords are not in an equal bargaining position," notes Jonathan Winer, attorney for Abba's. And this is "unfortunately standard" in eminent domain cases, explains Case Western Reserve University law professor Melvyn Durchslag. It is Capitalism 101.

    "The tenants are ending up on the short end of the stick. Yet from a purely fairness point of view, your property is not worth a dollar unless you get a tenant who operates a successful business out of it," Durchslag observes.

    And so it went. The landlords, who owned the property and had indeed taken risks, collectively walked away with millions. The shop owners, who rented the space and had materially contributed to the owners' portfolios, received mere thousands and in some cases, not a penny. There was nothing the most brilliant or canny lawyer could do. The outcome was legally tenable, if morally unfair.

    Peter L. Rubin likes to talk about intersections. "That's what we try to create: commercial intersections, social intersections, civic-neighborhood intersections." Rubin, whose Coral Co. rebuilt the University Heights side of Cedar Center, can hardly contain his passion about redeveloping the South Euclid portion over the next couple of years.

    "We don't look at it as our job to remake the neighborhood," he says. "We move into an existing fabric. We look at it as our job to reweave it, as a piece of broken fabric, to weave it back together." Rubin is grandiloquent about his plans, articulated in long professorial paragraphs replete with academic concepts like "civic space" and marketing phrases like "cultural intersections." He wants to impose a common vision on the disparate parts of the Cedar Center area.

    "It's not a 12-acre project. It's a district. The corner of Warrensville [Center Road] and Cedar is the geographic and demographic center of the East Side suburbs of Cleveland," he says.

    To make Cedar Center look like a district, he intends to use a common color scheme and marketing strategy for both sides of the mall, as well as University Square on the other side of Warrensville Center. He hopes to construct an architectural feature that will span Cedar Road and connect the two sides of Cedar Center, like the arch of St. Louis. "It will let people know: "You're here! You're in the district! You're in the Cedar Center district!'" You will want to go there, Rubin adds, "not just because you want to go to the restaurants, but because you love the experience. You love that intersection with neighbors, different people, diversity, choices."

    It is an ambitious plan, requiring lots of capital. Rubin plans to anchor the mall with chain businesses that can afford the rent and have the brand image that resonates with customers. His vision invites questions: Will the redeveloped mall make money? Will it increase the economic vitality of South Euclid? And what are the consequences for the neighborhood?

    From an economic perspective, it is a no-brainer to urban-policy expert Dr. Robert Simons, professor in the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. Looking over a Coral Co. drawing of the project, Simons takes out his cell phone and crunches some numbers on his calculator. "It's about 130,000 square feet of retail, maybe 50,000 square feet of office, and 225,000 square feet of residential. Assuming industry standards, the total growth value is between $50 (million) and $75 million dollars. That's the tax base that will be generated. You get all the income tax of those residents and you've got the income tax of the retail workers and office workers here. It's a real plum."

    Simons acknowledges the human costs: many, probably most, of the stores currently in Cedar Center will not return. "It's just a shame," Simons says. "It's very cut throat in Cleveland because there's so little growth in this overall metro. It's Darwinism, it's business Darwinism, survival of the fittest. It's just part of the normal cycle of change."

    Others see significant drawbacks. Professor Norman Krumholz, a colleague of Simons' at CSU's Urban Affairs College, laments that the neighborhood will lose "the ethnicity of the shops. People are not drawn to places that look like Roadside America." It was the indigenous neighborhood places - Abba's, Anatolia Cafe with its Turkish cuisine, along with Discovery and Jacob's - that gave Cedar Center its distinctive charm.

    "The community lost something special," attorney Winer says. "We have these Disney malls; they are surreal shopping palaces. You can go to Columbus, you can go to Chicago, you can go to Cincinnati, you see the same mall and you see the same stores and businesses selling the same product in the same way. Everything becomes very cookie-cutter. The Center was very different and that is perhaps lost and will never be replaced."

    South Euclid residents, who were interviewed at two popular local city eateries, share these sentiments. Jim Lentine, who owns a family hairstyling shop in nearby Univer-sity Heights, spoke for many when he said, "You can go to a Target anywhere. Cedar Center always had individual owners, stores that you couldn't find anyplace else. But I think the project is a very good thing for the city. You got to break eggs to make an omelet."

    Welo expects all the tenants to be gone by spring of this year. Some stores have already found new homes. Discovery Shop plans to open on Mayfield Road in Lyndhurst. Anatolia Café will reopen early this spring in the Cedar/Lee area. Jay Steingroot, owner of Jacob's, says he is still looking for a place. Abba's has yet to find a new spot for its kosher restaurant. Abba's former manager, Shia Neuman, is still looking for a job.


    Here's what Cedar Center looked like a couple of years ago:







    Current aerial photo:



    Here's what's planned:






    I thought I left the prevailing "battered and gritty is more authentic, real and honest, and thus preferable" mindset behind in Buffalo, but apparently I'm wrong.

    Sorry, but as both a planner, and a South Euclid resident and homeowner with two vacant foreclosed houses at the end of his block, a foreclosure in the process next door, and negative equity thanks to plunging property values, I'll take the upscale, mixed-use pedestrian-friendly mini-lifestyle center over keepin' it real with a poorly-maintained plaza from the late 1940s. It's a significant upgrade, reflects good planning practice -- although it would be even better if the buildings fronted directly on the street -- and will help stabilize an inner ring suburb that is experiencing growing economic toil.

    I'll miss the Jewish-oriented businesses at the old Cedar Center, but there's many in South Euclid that will remain at Kosher Corners (Cedar/Green), and throughout the eastern suburbs.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Its the "nuclear option" that I think brought out this viewpoint. How can an alternative weekly not criticize a city using eminent domain for shopping center developers and dispacing local business?

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    This seems like a tough one on a few levels. I think Seabishop is right in speculating why the weekly free press took the stance they did. People often values places not just because of the functionality or aesthetics, but because of the stories they tell or the emotional investment they have in a place.

    Still, things change, and change has the potential to narrate new stories of place. The realities of what happens to those businesses currently there is a tough one, especially as they seem to be mainly locally owned and operated. This is a tough sticking point in general, though, as nearly every major change of this sort (from closing a base and redeveloping the land to razing a dilapidated strip mall) results in negative economic impacts for someone, from the local cleaner that had a contract on the base to the family restaurant forced to relocate or close its doors.

    My own opinion (from the safe distance of New Mexico) is that the mono-use, car-oriented nature of '40s era shopping strips (or "plazas" if you want to cal them that, though they claim a tentative relationship to the longer standing plaza that has been the mainstay of settlements the world over) are limited in their appeal and functionality. Adding housing, for example, greatly increases the liklihood that this could be a lively, functioning, socially healthy place and that the mini plaza featured in the plans would actually be used and not become just a scary place after dark. Of course, this also hinges on the kind of retail that goes in, the price of the housing units and many other less tangible factors, but the potential is there. If retail spaces are kept small and affordable enough, those Jewish neighborhood delis (or similar) still have a chance of affording it and surviving. If the spaces are too large and expensive, though, its gonna be chains all the way, and that would just suck for everyone.

    It reminds me a bit of this place: http://www.abquptown.com/ called ABQ Uptown. In some ways, the design makes it much more pleasant to stroll and shop - the scale of buildings is good, they have cornice lines to create a "room" feeling, the lighting is well-scaled, there are restaurants, etc. But its ALL chains, making me feel like I am walking through the world's longest commercial break, desperately waiting for the show that is my life to come back on. It really bugs me. Currently, they have no housing there, but they are planning on it in the near future. I still can't quite put my finger on what bothers me so much about ABQ Uptown (beyond the name) - maybe it is the sanitary feeling, the lack of any local flavor, or simply the fact that they have packaged the mall experience (which was also never very fond of) in new clothes. Maybe its because its so new. I just don't know, but I cringe if I have to go (the Mac store is there where our machines are serviced). Try to avoid that if you can...
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    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    Its amazing what some people can develop sentimentality for. The old one is pretty awful, aesthetically speaking. I couldn't bring myself to come to its defense even if the owner of the Jewish deli was my best friend. If there is a demand for a jewish deli in that area, one will come to occupy space in the new center or one near there. I don't think anyone dreams about waitressing in the same deli for the rest of their lives. Sure it is a temporary upset, a shock to the system, but what's better for the community? When buyers see that there is investment being made into the community at large, it boosts property values. Bot one thing that does bother me about these 'lifestyle centers' is that they are predominantly chain stores that one finds all over the place. It would be nice to see some local color. One thing they could do is offer incentives to locally owned businesses. There is a giant new development here in LV that intends to do that. http://http://www.sullivansquarelasvegas.com/ Whether they will be able to pull it off or not is another story.
    Last edited by boilerplater; 30 Jan 2008 at 4:34 PM. Reason: fixed link
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    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I agree with Seabishop that perhaps the "nuclear option" was what set the opposition into defense mode.

    But I think the solution is to find suitable relocation spaces for the existing tenants and disrupt their business as little as possible.

    The plan for the new development is OK, but far from great. I do like the residential and office above the commercial and structured parking.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    The city certainly could have dealt with the tenants in a fairer manner, but legally they didn't to.

    I like the new design actually. There is at least some variation in the buildings rather than a single roof line with a bunch of different parapet heights, a cheap gesture to individuality a lot of suburban retail developers go for.

    Dan: what is the other high-profile E.D. case in NE Ohio? There was a 60 minutes segment on it one time, IIRC.

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    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Thanks for letting us all take a big, long bong hit on a fresh, well-packed bowl of irony.

    Quote Originally posted by Karl Marx Perloff
    All this is perfectly legal. Even though the store owners' success contributed to the value of the property - and therefore the profits the landlords received from selling to South Euclid - many had no legal claim on the money. A contract is a contract. But here's the rub: Leases are typically written to serve the interests of landlords, not tenants. "Tenants and landlords are not in an equal bargaining position," notes Jonathan Winer, attorney for Abba's. And this is "unfortunately standard" in eminent domain cases, explains Case Western Reserve University law professor Melvyn Durchslag. It is Capitalism 101.
    Someone must have held a gun to the heads of those tenents and made them sign those leases! I'll bet that the man even ensured there were no other vacant retail spaces in all of Cleveland that they could rent. The tenenats were forced to locate there and no one really thought that the exact words on the leases were like, serious. The Dude abides...

    At first Kelo was pronounced as good news and the left is in love. The expansion of the powers of government over those of the individual was heralded and defended by every newspaper editorial I found. The lawyers went into overdrive showing up at planning conferences telling us how this had really always been the law and Kelo was just a restatement of many earlier cases and that Public Use could really mean all kinds of things. Now it appears Kelo is bad bad bad because it is abusing the twelve guys with ponytails that buy their hippie hipster paper. I guess when you live by Kelo sometimes you die by Kelo. I guess what comrade Perloffski is truly saying is that a contract is a contract unless it hurts the workers of the world.

    To me this is the only upside of Kelo I've encountered. I hope they start using Kelo to take the offices, homes, and the speculative investment properties of our friends in the press and liberal lawyers.
    Last edited by el Guapo; 30 Jan 2008 at 10:15 PM.

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    Cyburbian
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    What happens if Coral doesn't buy the property, or if they buy it but can't attract any tenants?

    The government would be humiliated and people would observe a piece of land made unproductive by government bureaucrats.

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    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    The underlying assumption of the article is that some property, indeed a specific property, should be kept shabby so that marginal uses have a place to rent...

    Duh.

    In any case, it may be in the longer-term iunterst of an area to maintain some lower-earning but essential/useful uses in the area and that can presumably be 'legislated/regulated' in.

    Where I live (Chiswick, London)., the high (main) street has changed a lot in terms of retail offerings over the last 8 years. Some decry the proliferation of mobile phone shops and cofee shops and the disappeareance of the two existign ahrddware stores...but then they buy a new mobile every year, the cofee shops are always packed and the alst tiem they bought soemthign from a ahrdware store they drove to Hiomebase (about 3/4 mile away, big box with front parking, etc., to save 5 p on as 1.05 pack of tacks......
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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    The underlying assumption of the article is that some property, indeed a specific property, should be kept shabby so that marginal uses have a place to rent...

    Duh.
    When you're a built-out, declining suburb I think you tend to see things differently...

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    With companies like Whole Foods opening shop next door, it seems this is an area ripe for redevelopment. The problem with redevelopment, though, is that it tends to force out the local businesses in favor of national chains. Don't get me wrong. I am not against chains and I am not advocating for the little guy.

    What I mean to point out is that commercial strips, malls, and lifestyle centers are all failing to keep our interest because they are all the same. Continued studies show that we spend less time shopping and take fewer shopping trips. A good part of this is because there is so little diversity in where we can shop. At the same time, the top-ranked vacation activity is... shopping. That is not Home Depot or the mall, though. It is a quaint downtown or a eclectic urban neighborhood.

    As developers, planners, and economic developers, I think the real challenge for us is to find ways in which we can redevelop an area while preserving its unique businesses. I'm not mourning Chipotle. I expect they may show up in the redeveloped property. The loss is a restaurant like Abbas. Too bad there was not a way that they could be part of the new tenant mix.
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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    When you're a built-out, declining suburb I think you tend to see things differently...
    Tis true. South Euclid has several shopping centers, but ALL of them were built in the late 1940s and early 1950s. They're all a bit shabby and run down; not necessarily "plazas from hell" filled with dollar stores and check cashing shops, but still places that have seen better days. In any other city, those shopping centers would have been redeveloped long ago, but not in SE, which is a plain-Jane middle-class enclave surrounded by more affluent or higher-profile communities. The plazas are cash cows; they make a steady stream of income for the owners, and thus aren't likely to be improved.

    It would have been nice to see the city go above and beyond the call of duty, and help existing businesses in the shopping center. Relocation within SE would have been difficult, though. There's not many retail vacancies, and what's out there is mostly along Mayfield Road, a mile north of the core of the Orthodox Jewish community that lines Cedar Road. Still, the city was under no obligation to help.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    With the term "Plaza" in the title, I was expecting the old shopping center to have a tiled central area with beautiful fountains, benches, and old folks feeding flocks of doves.



    Back on topic... I agree with some of the earlier posters that the city and the landlords could have given more time and/or better terms to their tenants, but it seems no law was broken here and such is the nature of the game when a tenant knowingly enters into a lease.

    With the development happening across the street in this example, it sounds like it was only a matter of time before South Euclid would have wanted to provide some type of substantial competition and lure some of that investment into their city.

    I happen to like the new design quite a bit over the old. As far as the set-back goes, two rows of parking in the front is not too bad, especially if the development across the street has something at a similar scale (one row of angled parking would probably have been sufficient though).
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Jamestown, New York
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    1,681
    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    I thought I left the prevailing "battered and gritty is more authentic, real and honest, and thus preferable" mindset behind in Buffalo, but apparently I'm wrong.
    You know this would never have been allowed to even happen in Buffalo ... Nostalgia for "times past" seems to be an overriding concern in and around Buffalo, which is why so much doesn't get done in the city. Of course, that's not necessarily true of the suburbs ... the deep-pocket "preservationists" seem to have definite limits as to where they'll spend their money preventing change, and the suburbs are definitely "outside the Pale"!

    Seriously, though, retail trends change over time, and most of the 1950s' plazas and 1960s' strip malls are pretty well out-dated, especially where the properties haven't been well maintained over the years. A seedy looking, half-empty little strip mall or plaza is not particularly inviting, but if the owners invest in their property, it can be a prosperous and welcome addition to any community. The little plaza on Delaware Avenue at the corner of Great Arrow in Buffalo has been around since the 1950s (I remember going to the old A&P store as a little girl with my mom), but has been continually upgraded over the decades and remains a busy commercial site in the North Buffalo shopping district. Another older plaza from the 1950s or 1960s, Stuyvesant, off Western Avenue in Guilderland (outside of Albany, NY) has also been well maintained and modernized over the decades, and has gone decidedly upscale/eclectic to compete with the nearby Crossgates, Crossgates Commons, and Colony Center shopping centers. It seems to me that the "nasty old city" of SE is trying to do what the owners of the plaza wouldn't do. If the plaza owners had maintained and updated their property to attract more businesses, it would have been too valuable an asset for the city to take.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Sep 2004
    Location
    WA
    Posts
    112
    Linda D. yes. had the owners maintained repositioned, etc their building the city would not have taken it over. . .but since the owners received fair market value. . .or something close to it, I don't think anyone feels too bad for them.

    The issues, are that local businesses are being pushed out without relocation assistance (in many cases). . .and while I know nothing about this community and there may be another slightly better maintained strip mall for them to move into, in many towns there is a lack of cheap retail space.

    I don't know if the "atomic" strategy used here was appropriate or not, but I think that most of us could agree that the hard work of bolstering existing neighborhoods (including their local businesses) is not done enough, nor done earnestly when attempted.

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