Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Mayor on Highland Square.

We all are wondering what the hell is going on with Highland Square. The new buildings are up, but as of now we have only one spot filled -- with a Chipotle restaurant, no less. So far no grocery store and nothing but rumors about other possible businesses moving in.

Highland Square Neighborhood Association waxes conspiratorially about all this. In particular they think that no grocery has moved in because Steve Albrect, who new buildings, doesn't want the competition for his Acme #1 down the street. As for the lack of other tenants, I've heard everything from he charges too much rent to he's holding the neighborhood "hostage" for more parking.

I'm no fan of Steve Albrect, but this is ridiculous. He didn't sink millions of dollars into the neighborhood to let the buildings stand vacant earning him no money. He's a lot of things, but he's not a suicidal businessman and that would be business suicide.

HSNA Gadfly President Lisa Bostwick took this worldview to Monday night's Akron City Council meeting. Council was meeting to consider the Eastgate Urban Renewal project. As the Akron Beacon Journal reported, she spoke out against the project in Goodyear Heights based on the vacancies in Highland Square. Akron News Now has audio of Plusquellec's response which at that point was notably calm, diplomatic and respectful. I've heard that after that response Bostwick continued to press her case and things got testier.

Plusquellec says that both the Albrect and the city have met with potential businesses and that Albrect has turned down a national ice cream franchise because it's not appropriate to the neighborhood. In other words, it might put Akron landmark Mary Coyle's Ice Cream out of business. I heard the rumor of a Hansen's Ice Cream moving in, so now we know what happened to that.

I appreciate the work HSNA did in persuading Albrect against turning the neighborhood into a strip mall. But the way things have devolved into name-calling and paranoia saddens me. They've diminished their victory and may well push the parties into making some decisions that would be truly disastrous for the neighborhood.

It just might be that the difficulty finding tenants may have something to do with the overabundance of retail space in Northeast Ohio. After all, a newly built strip mall off 77 at the Ridgewood Road exit still isn't at 100% occupancy after over a year and for months was home to nothing more than a tanning salon.


NEOBuckeye said...

I totally agree, Pho. The sad part is, up until now I have also generally agreed with Bostwick and HSNA. I don't think anyone wanted to see a matching cookie-cutter CVS or Rite-Aid erected across West Market from Walgreens, and Albrect and the Mayor prevented that from taking place. So much for gratitude, which I think is actually due these men in this case.

Who really believes that Albrect, a grocer who also deals in commercial real estate, would erect a couple of new buildings and let them sit vacant, just to avoid competition? With what, his flagship ACME #1... in Wallhaven? I could see reasonable cause for concern if ACME were located directly across the street in Highland Square. But that isn't the case, and Highland Square and Wallhaven stand as two culturally and economically distinct communities.

Bostwick is way out of bounds on the Goodyear/Middlebury development issue, an entirely different can of worms, IMHO. She may be frustrated with the lack of apparent progress in Highland Square, but ruffling the mayor's feathers on a completely separate project outside of her home territory isn't going to benefit her cause any. What about a more tactful approach? Have Bostwick and HSNA suggested any businesses that would fit the character of Highland Square without hurting others in the same area? How about attracting some local entrepreneurs?

Village Green said...

Bring back the Co-op! Healthy food for the neighborhood.

Sick of the Square said...

The most probable reason for a lack of tenants is that most businesses don't want to put up with the HSNA and its Zealot-in-Chief, Lisa Bostwick. The HSNA seems to thing that because Highland Square is filled which characters that it somehow translates into the area having character. The HSNA is quick to judge and slow to act. Their histrionics are getting old and everyone is tiring on their tactics.