Live, work, play in one convenient area. That’s mixed use in a nutshell. And mixed use is a phrase that is becoming more common as developers, investors and municipal leaders look to the future of communities.

Some experts say mixed use concepts represent a resurgence of convenient living. A century or so ago, most development was concentrated in cities where people could walk from home to their jobs and favorite shops. Then came cars, suburbia, strip malls and mega-malls.

The pendulum is swinging back.

We are talking about mixed use because leaders across the Chagrin Valley are promoting the concept as a full-proof path to enhancing their communities.

Orange Village stepped on that path more than six years ago when it began the process of having voters approve rezoning 58 acres of residential land to make way for the $230 million Pinecrest center that opened in 2018 with retail, entertainment, a hotel, offices, apartments and more.

Bainbridge Township Trustees have been working toward finding a new purpose for the land that once was the longtime home of Geauga Lake Amusement Park that closed in 2007. The 650 acres in Bainbridge and the city of Aurora is owned by Cedar Fair and has for the most part become overgrown with vegetation. Both communities updated the zoning to allow for mixed-use projects. The largest development has been on the Aurora side with a sprawling car dealership completed in 2018 and plans in the works for a large housing development by the Pulte Group.

In Solon, the city administration convinced voters to approve a measure on the November 2019 ballot creating a mixed-use planning district for 21.76 acres along Solon and Aurora roads to pave the way for projects that could combine commercial, office space, retail, restaurants and apartments or townhomes. The pending sale of the former Liberty Ford property, central to this concept, fell through after the election. But city leaders insist the new zoning will attract development in the future. Time will tell.

Now Pepper Pike officials are exploring the possibility of turning the former home of the Beech Brook behavioral health agency into a pedestrian-friendly area with shops, offices and housing. Town center is the buzz word here. This cannot happen unless residents agree at the ballot box to mixed-use overlay zoning. Axiom Development Group, which has an option to purchase the 68 acres, is looking to get the rezoning issue on the ballot this year.

But a group of residents aren’t buying into this vision and are packing council sessions to voice their objections and concerns. These homeowners who say they value the serene nature of Pepper Pike living have formed a group called Say No to Rezone, mounting a campaign against the proposal. Residents said they don’t want the increased traffic or a change to the greenery in that area.

Axiom representatives have shared verbal descriptions of their plans explaining that changes would only impact about 16 acres of the Beech Brook campus. They are holding an open house at Beech Brook on Jan. 25, when residents can see the property and ask questions.

One thing residents have not seen is a visual rendering of the proposal. We see that as a crucial element to explain the plan, but developers want the rezoning approved before starting on any drawings. Residents would benefit from seeing the land and asking questions during the open house. Developers also need to listen to the concerns of residents.

The ultimate goal for community leaders is to encourage development that will improve the quality of life of people living in the community. This is the age of mixed use, but is it good for every community?

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