By Kevin Kelley
Developers Diversified Realty, the Beachwood-based owner of West Bay Plaza, plans to tear down the two largest buildings at the Detroit Road shopping center and construct two new buildings in their place.
DDR’s development plan for West Bay Plaza was formally presented at the Westlake Planning Commission’s Feb. 6 meeting. The plans consist of demolishing the vacant north building that once housed Kmart and the west building which houses Marc’s. The east building, which houses Arashi Japan Steak House, will be updated. A smaller outlot building near Detroit Road may be built.
The new buildings would be constructed on basically the same footprint on which the existing buildings stand. The replacement building where Kmart once stood would house multiple tenants, DDR indicated.
DDR does not own the lots on which McDonald’s and Key Bank are located, and those businesses will not be affected by the development plan.
The plan, DDR executives said, is to demolish and reconstruct in phases so there is minimal impact on the existing tenants.
Noting that the plaza sits lower than the adjacent Detroit and Crocker roads, DDR officials said the visibility of signage will be important to future tenants.
But Planning Commission members did not like a DDR proposal to construct a sign tower at the northeast corner of the new building. With its proximity to Interstate 90, members said they see the area as a gateway to the city, adding that Crocker Park would be an ideal to emulate.
The commission tabled the issue at the Feb. 6 meeting but met again with DDR executives for a work session Feb. 23.
James Grafmeyer, DDR’s vice president of development, told commission members the West Bay Plaza site was not a good location for a town center such as Crocker Park. But he said DDR would like to build a first-class shopping plaza there.
Grafmeyer said DDR plans to bring top-quality tenants to the plaza, which he said will complement Crocker Park.
“It’s tenants that you know and tenants that you’d love to have in Westlake,” Grafmeyer said, although he declined to name specific retailers.
Grafmeyer said given the lower geography of the site, tenants will want larger signage than Westlake typically allows. DDR, which owns and manages 319 retail properties in the United States, is asking for an allowance that signs of major retailers be up to 72 inches tall instead of the city’s limit of 48 inches.
DDR would consider other options for the site, including continuing operations as they are, should the city not approve the company’s plans, Grafmeyer said politely.
“It has to still make economic sense when it’s all said and done,” Grafmeyer told the commission. DDR wants city approval by May so the new stores in the first phase of the redevelopment can open in the summer of 2018, he said.
Commission Chairman Daniel Meehan said Westlake planners have spent decades working on its signage philosophy. “We’ve spent a lot of time getting pole signs down,” he said.
Lighting and landscaping plans were also revamp, with Meehan asking DDR to use the lower geography of the site into an advantage by creating a unique entryway with the use of trees.
DDR’s West Bay Plaza development plan is on the agenda of the Planning Commission’s April 3 meeting.