S.J. Collins Enterprises

Burst of construction activity in West Akron

The curved southwest edge of the new 365 by Whole Foods building is now visible along West Market Street. The store will anchor the new development, which is expected to have three additional retail buildings.
WEST AKRON — Residents and those who frequent West Akron will be getting used to seeing heavy equipment in the coming months as several major construction projects are underway in the area.

Lots of activity has been taking place at the West Market Street site of a new major retail development and the White Pond Drive office park that is seeing its first new building under construction.

Akron City Council President Marilyn Keith (D-Ward 8), in whose ward the new West Market Street Station retail development is being built, said the increase in the number of projects on the west side is a good thing.

“This is a blessing,” Keith said. “I don’t think other wards are seeing quite the variety that we are seeing coming to us. And there are more to come. We’re at a real nice tipping point.”

Some other parts of the city, such as Firestone Park, have benefited in recent years from large corporate projects, Keith said. The projects underway in West Akron are a diverse bunch that she said “gives our ward a spark.”

Keith said the improving economy and efforts by the city to attract businesses can be credited for the increase in projects.

“We’re trying to make our streets more walkable-friendly,” she said. “That opens it up to an opportunity for smaller businesses to come in and generate a new energy in the neighborhoods.”

While some of the developments have raised concerns about traffic and other expected changes that come with construction projects, Keith said she thinks there are more positive feelings now about West Market Street Station, which is being built at the former West Point Market site.

About a year ago, the news broke that the longtime specialty grocery store was closing to make way for the development, later announced to be anchored by a Whole Foods Market. West Point Market closed at the end of the 2015 and company officials now have plans to open a smaller store on Shiawassee Avenue in Fairlawn.

“The initial shock of West Point had to run through everyone’s veins, and then they became more open to West Point doing what was good for them,” Keith said.

A few weeks ago, Whole Foods officials announced that its new Akron store is now being built as a 365 by Whole Foods store, which means it will be a smaller store.

“I think the 365 will benefit the neighborhood more than the original Whole Foods [plan],” Keith said.

In addition to two other retail buildings located at the site, under consideration now is a plan to add a third outbuilding along West Market Street. So far, Orangetheory fitness center and PetPeople pet supplies store are slated to be tenants in the development. The developer also is touting the site as good for restaurants.

“All those stores will be high-end,” Keith said, adding she’s happy that dollar stores aren’t expected to be among the tenants.

Jeff Garrison, with developer S.J. Collins, said the company found that the location for its new development was just what it was looking for to bring Whole Foods to Akron for the first time.

“We liked its proximity to the in-town neighborhoods and downtown,” he said. “We spent a lot of time exploring the right location and we think the site is the perfect spot for this type of retail shopping plaza, anchored by a new 365 by Whole Foods Market.”

He added that construction is on schedule and retailers are expected to open next spring.

“We still have availability for approximately 12,000 square feet of additional retail space for lease,” Garrison said. “We’ve cleared and graded and will start going vertical over the next few months.

The concerns that Keith does hear from constituents are often regarding traffic. She said there are questions about that at the soon-to-open new Starbucks site at West Market Street and North Pershing Avenue. The stand-alone location will feature a drive-through window.

Keith said she believes the corner site will work for that, and the parking lot has been adjusted with curbs to regulate the flow of the traffic there. She added she worked in the building many years ago when it was a Manners restaurant, and it had a drive-through.

“The city will address it,” she said of traffic issues. “I do believe this area will get more traffic, but that’s generating opportunities and a healthier tax base in that area. That should offset these minor inconveniences.”

She added the fate of the vacant lot at the corner of Frank Boulevard and West Market Street is unknown, although rumors have circulated since the former Smoke Inn building was razed there several months ago.

Keith said the West Market Street corridor has also benefited from the addition of Summit County Public Health relocating its headquarters there at Fairway Center. And the recent completion of Acme Fresh Market’s multimillion dollar renovation of its Acme No. 1 is also good for the neighborhood.

She also credited Acme’s Albrecht family for its efforts to bring an Ace Hardware location to Wallhaven this year. The store opened this spring in an Albrecht Inc. building across from Hardesty Park.

“It’s a small satellite store but has a big impact on the neighborhood,” she said.

Not far from Wallhaven and West Market Street, the large parcel on White Pond Drive at Frank Boulevard is also an active construction site. In April, Brockman, Coats, Gedelian & Co. (BCG &Co.) broke ground on its new headquarters at the site.

The 34,500-square-foot building will be the first in the new White Pond Office Park, which is on 76 acres. The company has announced that the project will be complete by the end of the year.

Last year, Akron City Council also approved plans for a medical office at the site, but Keith said she’s not certain what the status of that building is.

Also in the area, construction is expected to start soon on the new Case Community Learning Center (CLC) school building. The nearby Firestone/Litchfield CLC is almost complete, but work will continue in the next year to raze the old Firestone High School and put athletic fields in its place.