CUYAHOGA FALLS -- City Council on March 27 approved hiring a contractor to open up Front Street to vehicular traffic, something the city has not seen in 40 years. The vote was 10-0 with one Councilmember, Vic Pallotta (R-3), excused from voting.
Contractor H.R. Gray was hired at a cost of just under $9.9 million.
"This is one of our three largest investments in the 21st Century and I really hope it's the most successful of all of them," said At-Large Councilman Jeff Iula (R) prior to voting. "I've very much in favor of it." Iula said the other two investments were the Natatorium in 2004 and Portage Crossing in 2014.
"I want to thank Council, the administration and, most of all, the public for being involved in this from the start," said Mayor Don Walters. "It's been a long, long process. I don't want you to think it ends here. The public involvement is going to be quite strong. We'll have hard hat tours, a groundbreaking and all those things as it goes on because as you know there are existing businesses down there now and we want them to thrive throughout the construction. So there's going to be a whole lot of focus starting today."
President Mary Ellen Pyke (R-2) said she watched a big smile appear on the mayor's face when voting was completed. She later told the Falls News-Press she believes the 10-0 approval by Council "shows the recognition we needed to move forward on getting the street opened." Pyke said it's important to note there are businesses located on Front Street including Metropolis Popcorn that considered moving but decided to stay.
"A family has bought two businesses and plans to open a candy store and an ice cream place," she said. "We have the theater being restored and the hotel coming in. There is movement down on that mall that's being spurred by the actions taken to open up Front Street. This is an investment in our community."
Pallotta later told the Cuyahoga Falls News-Press he asked to be excused from voting because of a "potential conflict of interest." Pallotta was excused from voting by a motion and a second, with all members of Council, except Pallotta, voting in favor.
On March 20, Planning Director Fred Guerra said the city received technical proposals and bid price proposals from five design build teams. On March 3 the technical proposals were reviewed and scored by city officials, Guerra said, and bid price proposals were opened on March 7. The technical proposal was worth 35 points, price proposal was 60 points and project duration was 5 points, he said. The maximum number of points a team could earn was 100 points, he said.
H.R. Gray of Akron had the highest scoring technical proposal and second highest scoring price proposal with a total of 98.52 points, Guerra said, and was the selected contractor. H.R. Gray submitted its proposals with Hammontree and Associates of North Canton as a partner on their design build team. Hammontree will finish the engineering drawings, Guerra said.
The other companies that bid on the project were Cavanaugh, Karvo, Perk and Kenmore, he said.
The design build method is where the city provides a portion of the engineering drawings for the project and a design build team completes the plans and construction in accordance with the city's vision and requirements, the planning director explained.
According to information provided by the city, H.R. Gray has four subconsultants: IBI Group of Canton, traffic engineering; Robert A. Horn Engineering of Dover, electrical engineering; Louis J. Ciraldo of Akron, independent quality manager; and D.L. Bennett Company of Fairlawn, public relations.
There are also two subcontractors working with H.R. Gray to provide landscaping services: Pro Tree and Landscape Company and Fred Azar Landscaping Inc., both of Cuyahoga Falls.
In a proposed construction schedule released by the city's planning department, H.R. Gray planned to start the project on March 30. A project "kick-off" will take place beginning on April 3 and ending April 6. Phase 1, Architecture and Engineering, is March 31-May 24; Phase 2, Second/Front One-Way Conversion is May 25 to Nov. 2; Phase 3, Front Street (North) Conversion, April 3-Dec. 6; and Phase 4, Front Street (South) Conversion, July 24-Dec. 31.
A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled to take place on March 31, 2018.
Stadium project approved
In other business, Council on March 27 unanimously approved Walsh Jesuit High School's site plan for a reconstruction of its football stadium complex at 4550 Wyoga Lake Road including a 200-square-foot ticket booth, a 3,600-square-foot restroom and concessions facility, an 8,000 square foot fieldhouse, a picnic shelter and bleacher grandstands.
On March 7, Kiera Szytec of Kaczmar Architects Inc. told the city's planning commission improvements include a new fieldhouse and team room, a new concession stand with a spirit shop where team apparel can be sold, additional restrooms, a covered picnic shelter for gatherings such as alumni events, a new entrance and ticket booth, new home bleachers, new visitors' bleachers and a new press box with a covered video platform.
The existing restroom building will be reclad with matching brick and metal and repurposed to serve as a storage building, she said, also noting pathways will be built between the stadium and the school and the parking lot and they will be illuminated by wand lights in the ground.