STOW — Two-hundred-thousand dollars has been raised toward the construction of a community amphitheater, and city leaders hope to secure another $200,000 by the end of next month.
John Pribonic, who assumed the mayor’s office in November, has pledged to make downtown Stow a reality and the proposed amphitheater would be an anchor of it.
"We have a number of irons in the fire at this time; potential ideas for recreational amenities at the City Center site, and potential funding sources," according to Linda Narstedt, Stow’s Parks and Recreation director. "The community amphitheater is one of those ideas. Renderings of how a potential amphitheater might be situated on the site will be forthcoming. Once funding has been solidified for the amphitheater, we will have a more thorough plan to unveil to the community. To date, funding has been pledged by both community organizations and local businesses."
Since the city’s 2006 comprehensive plan, officials have envisioned a walkable retail development at the City Center complex and the adjacent approximately 12 undeveloped acres. In late September 2018, lawmakers approved marketing a request for proposals aimed at attracting developers to submit their ideas for creating a downtown Stow. The deadline for submissions was Nov. 21, 2018, and the city received no formal RFPS.
However, since taking office Pribonic says city representatives "have met with multiple developers to discuss the project and will continue to do so over the next few months."
In May 2018, the city asked architectural, engineering and planning firm OHM (Orchard Hiltz and McCliment Inc.) to assemble a request for proposal for development of the City Center site, which is found in the northwest quadrant of the Graham and Darrow road intersection, and includes Stow’s City Hall, senior center, police/fire station and the service center. The document outlined requirements for the undertaking, such as the fact that none of the city structures may be moved or demolished in the redevelopment area.
Earlier in the spring, OHM representatives presented the results of a market study and initial conceptual plans which developers could consider when developing and submitting plans to the city. The findings of DiSalvo Development Advisors indicated a mixed-use development featuring restaurants, retail and multifamily rental housing was "the highest and best near-term redevelopment" opportunity for Stow City’s Center. Based on profiles of other similar-size downtowns and town centers, the DDA study projected that food and drink establishments, retail goods and personal services would predominate at the Stow site, with a smaller portion of retail occupied by office space. Peter DiSalvo, president of DiSalvo Development Advisors, reported a residential component is a big component of success in mixed-use developments in downtown areas.
Since that time, Stow City Council has withdrawn a plan to create an entertainment district in an area that generally included the City Center property and land along the Darrow Road corridor from Bryn Mawr Drive to Graham Road. If the district had been approved, it would’ve started a process to allow the city to acquire liquor licenses for businesses to use in the designated area. The creation of the district was seen by some city officials as part of an effort to create a destination downtown, but critics were concerned about bars dominating the proposed development.
The Stow-Munroe Falls Community Foundation, a 501(c)3, which is made up of community leaders, has been eager to partner with the city on exploring the potential development of the Stow city campus from a recreational gathering standpoint. In 2017, the Foundation conducted a community summit aimed at developing a collective vision of what such a place might include. When an estimate from a consultant calculated the expense to complete the vision in the several million dollar range, it became apparent at that time the city could not accomplish this feat, even with the assistance and fundraising by the Community Foundation. The administration of former Mayor Sara Kline then began exploring the idea of partnering with a private developer to create a downtown destination area that would include a recreational venue or a noncommercial community gathering place.
Reporter Ellin Walsh can be reached at 330-541-9419, firstname.lastname@example.org or @EllinWalsh_RPC.