Aurora -- The city may soon receive plans for its first new development on the land owned by Cedar Fair, which used to be the site of Geauga Lake, Wildwater Kingdom and, before that, Sea World.

City officials confirmed last week they've been in discussions with Liberty Ford of Solon about building a new dealership at Route 43 and Squires Road, although Economic Development Director Jack Burge said the city has yet to receive any formal plans.

"We have worked with Liberty Ford, and they did find a piece of property in the Geauga Lake district that they liked," he said. "It's my understanding they're doing their due diligence and working toward the purchase of a piece of property."

According to published reports, the dealership is moving from its Solon location to expand after rezoning talks fell through with officials there.

Liberty Ford officials did not return phone calls from the Aurora Advocate seeking comment.

Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said Liberty Ford officials have been eager to cooperate with the city to help it realize its vision for the land owned by Cedar Fair.

"We were very pleased that they seemed so willing to work with us and meet some of our architecture and building requests," she said.

Burge said he welcomes the car dealership to Aurora, which would bring with it quality jobs.

"That's a significant business," he said. "It certainly would be welcome, especially when you look at the mix of what those jobs might be."

He said car sales, management and automotive service jobs tend to have strong salaries. "We would love to have them in our city, and we hope that is what will happen," he added.

Officials said they believe the dealership would bring with it around 100 jobs. Womer Benjamin said Liberty Ford is considering more of a "campus setting" with multiple buildings rather than a single facility.

The land where the business would be located is part of the mixed-use district which encompasses the Cedar Fair property, said Burge.

Along with a mix of uses, Womer Benjamin has said the city would try to create a walkable development on the Cedar Fair property. "I think it is an appropriate business for that area," she said. "We have some other ideas for the area around it, as well."

Burge said it's possible Liberty Ford would need conditional zoning approval for some of its uses, depending on what is included in an eventual proposal.

Since the site is located in one of the community reinvestment areas, he said the business also would be eligible for a tax break on construction.

Liberty Auto Group has been in operation for more than 30 years, starting with one dealership in Vermilion. In addition to Solon and Vermilion, locations are in Maple Heights, Brunswick and Parma Heights. The locations employ more than 400 people.


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