Solon residents will have the opportunity to see the administration’s vision for the former Liberty Ford site and surrounding area during a town hall presentation Sept. 25. The session will be 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the site on Aurora near Solon Road.
Details of this plan are important to city residents who will be asked to vote on a new mixed-use planning district on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. The new zoning district would pave the way for a new type of development with stores, offices, restaurants and housing.
On hand that evening will be representatives from ICP, a Solon-based development company that recently purchased the former Liberty Ford property.
“We’ve done these town halls where we do it at the art center or the (recreation) center and we just thought it would be really neat to do it on site,” Mayor Edward H. Kraus said. It will give the community the opportunity to see the property as it is and also what the vision will be moving forward.
“We will be transforming an old, outdated property area and determining what the potential could be for that site,” Mayor Kraus said.
As part of the program that evening, City Planning Director Robert S. Frankland will give a breakdown of the zoning on the site and why the city desires to rezone it.
“He will let people know the benefits of the rezoning,” Mayor Kraus said.
Currently, the property is zoned C-4 Motorist Service Commercial.
The administration had, earlier this year, expanded the targeted area for the new zoning district beyond the Liberty Ford site to include 49 properties in the area bounded by Aurora Road, Solon Road, Station Street and Melbury Avenue for the total of 21.6 acres, half of which is undeveloped.
Michael Herrick, son of Liberty Ford founder Jim Herrick, has said that the plan does not have enough housing to make it successful. Mr. Herrick had suggested tabling the rezoning effort to give the administration time to come up with a better plan. But the city moved forward without the support of Mr. Herrick, the primary property holder, and he sold the land.
The plan outlines a residential component that cannot occupy more than 33 percent of the area, nor exceed a maximum of 200 units.
The town hall will give residents a first-hand look at what the administration has in mind.
“It’s just getting people excited,” the mayor continued of the town hall’s purpose. “We want to let people know we are being aggressive as a city getting redevelopment in these areas.
“It’s something different,” the mayor said. “New instead of the old and taking vacant, outdated plazas and areas and redeveloping them.”
Director of business and marketing Angee Shaker will speak at the town hall about the mixed use plan from a business development marketing standpoint, the mayor added.
Representatives from ICP will discuss what they foresee for the property, he said.
Mayor Kraus said that the rezoning is just the initial step. From there, ICP would submit a design of what they want at the property. At this point, it is “way too early” to lay out those plans, he added. Planners have envisioned another hotel, new restaurants or high-end housing.
“That’s all to be determined by them (ICP) and also what the market bears,” he said.
As for the Solon Motel, located nearby on Aurora Road, Mayor Kraus said “there will be efforts to get control of that site.”
The city or ICP could purchase the motel said Mayor Kraus who stated that he is in casual conversations with the property owner.
“They are open (to it),” he said of motel owners. “They want to get paid.” Prices have not yet been discussed, he said.
“You have to get control of that site to really maximize the use of the whole property there because that’s the first site you see if you are driving down Aurora Road going east,” he said of the blighted property. “It would be hard to do the development around the motel.
“You could do it but it would be much more challenging without that property,” he added.
Mayor Kraus said that he hopes the community turns out for the town hall. “It’s for people who want to have the information,” Mayor Kraus said. “When you put things on the ballot, people don’t always have the correct information.
“For people to make their own choice, they need to have the information from the city and from the owner of the property,” he added.
The event at the former Liberty Ford building, 32811 Aurora Road, will include a question-and-answer session and light refreshments.