By Sue Botos
When representatives of Edwards Communities were pitching their idea to the city for a luxury apartment complex at the site of the former Rockport Shopping Center, they might have had young professionals in mind as tenants. However, another demographic has taken a keen interest in the project and is looking forward to its groundbreaking.
“It’s a funny situation,” commented Rocky River economic development Director Kory Koran during his update at last week’s City Council session. “Since August of last year when I first contacted Edwards, I have received about 20 calls from seniors interested in the project,” he said.
Koran also noted that his table at the recent chamber of commerce business expo was busy with residents and business owners viewing plans for the many projects under way in the city. He said that several senior citizens expressed excitement over the Edwards plans, which include about nine studio and 173 one-bedroom units.
That enthusiasm was shared by Ryan Szymanski, senior vice president of development for Edwards, when Koran passed the word along.
“It’s really difficult to say who is going to rent or buy,” Koran said, referring to predictions of occupancy. For example, he noted that Astor Place, off of Lake Road, was originally thought of as an adult community, but is actually home to many families.
“In those 279 units, there is room for young and old alike,” commented Koran.
“Seniors are saying, ‘Get it up there. We want to sign a lease,’” he added, noting that there may be a “trickle-down effect” to the neighborhoods, where seniors who want to stay in Rocky River may be more tempted to sell their houses.
Koran noted that, even though the first shovel of dirt has yet to be turned over for the Edwards project – and the three Wald & Fisher Inc. proposed retail buildings along Center Ridge Road – the area is already attracting the attention of business owners. “People know this is happening and are starting to look across the street,” he reported.
One of those buildings, on the north side of Center Ridge, was purchased by the Mellino Robenalt law firm and is partially occupied. “The lawyers are slowly moving in,” remarked Koran. However, he added that another building at the corner of Center Ridge and Lakeview was bought by businesswoman Trendily Co and has sat vacant for several months. When contacted by West Life, Co said that she has been working to find the right contractor for a renovation project, which has been approved by the planning commission.
“We’ve talked to her about speeding up the process,” reported Koran. “We can’t really justify how long this is taking.” He said Co met with Mayor Pam Bobst to discuss some possible funding issues.
The planning commission is working on the final approval for the Rockport renovation, and Koran said work should begin on the new Huntington Bank building by November. After the bank moves from its present location, the former strip mall will be razed in preparation for the Edwards project, which Koran said should begin in the spring.
Cost of the Rockport projects totals $25 million according to Koran, who added that this does not include any possible work on the former Target building. “I had hoped by now that Fitworks would have moved into a portion of the old Target, but I don’t see that happening right now,” Koran said.
At last month’s planning commission meeting, center owner Dennis Fisher had revealed that Fitworks, now located in the River Square Center on Detroit Road, is planning to move to the Center Ridge location. Koran said the fitness center will stay put until its lease expires in 2013. He added that Whole Foods is still set to open in 2014 in the space vacated by Fitworks.
When questioned by council, Koran reported that the Rockport development will net $800,000 in taxes. While he said 60 percent of that amount goes to the school district and only 15 percent to the city, “it will still be a nice shot in the arm.”