Northfield Center Meijer store could bring Route 82 improvements

Jeff Saunders
Kent Weeklies
A proposed Meijer department store on the north side of Route 82 in Northfield Center, across the street from the Crossings at Golden Link shopping center, could include improvements to the road, including here at the Giant Eagle entrance, in order to mitigate increased traffic the store would generate.

NORTHFIELD CENTER — If a Meijer department store is built in the township, Meijer would likely have to make improvements to Route 82, but what those improvements would be, how much Meijer would have to pay and how it would impact the future of the project is uncertain.

Meijer is considering building the store on nearly 23 acres on the north side of Route 82, just west of Spitzer Chevrolet and across the street from the Crossings at Golden Link shopping center.

Township Zoning Inspector Don Saunders said that according to a traffic study developed by Meijer, improvements could cost up to $6.5 million and would include right-of-way acquisitions, widening the road, converting the entrance into Giant Eagle where there is already a traffic light into a “full-blown” intersection and even upgrades in the Route 82 and Route 8 intersection to the east and drainage improvements.

Saunders said it is likely that not all will happen, but what is required will be up to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

“Some form of it will get done because [ODOT] can prohibit access to 82,” he said.

Phone calls made to several Meijer spokespersons, as well as to the “Meijer Media Line,” seeking information and comment were not returned.

Improvements to Route 82 could be required before a Meijer could be built in Northfield Center.

Mark Escaja, president and chief executive officer of United Commercial Realty Corp., which is acting as an advisor to property owner Spitzer A-Team, said Thursday that Meijer submitted a traffic study to ODOT and the plan Saunders referred to is what ODOT says needs to be done in that area overall, but it is unclear how much of it ODOT will say Meijer would be responsible for.

“Based on that study, it called for a lot of improvements, not only incorporating Northfield but also Macedonia,” he said. “That’s where it’s at right now. They’re just waiting for a response from ODOT.

"ODOT may say they have to make all these improvements, which means the project’s not going to happen, or they can be accommodative and just give them something reasonable to do," he added.

Escaja, who was a partner in the development of the Crossings in the early 2000s, said the plan for that section of Route 82 is far beyond what was required for the shopping center.

But Justin Chesnic, spokesman for ODOT’s District 4 office in Akron, said the existence of a study, much less a plan and a price tag, is news to the department.

Chesnic said ODOT had not received the traffic impact study and when it does depends on Meijer’s schedule. Therefore, from ODOT’s standpoint, there are currently no requirements for what needs to be done and no cost estimate, said Chesnic.

He added that Meijer has submitted some “traffic analysis data” to make sure the company is on the right track in developing the study.

Chesnic said ODOT would make recommendations for road improvements based on a traffic impact study that Meijer is supposed to submit, with such a review typically taking around 30 days.

“That will determine what kind of traffic they estimate will be coming into the area, you know, based on their store and how that’s going to change things,” said Chesnic. “Basically, that will lay out the proposed improvements that are needed and then we’ll either approve it or not approve it.”

He added that Meijer would be responsible for the costs of those improvements.

Saunders said it is not necessarily true that the current situation is holding up the Meijer store since it is his understanding that Meijer is not planning to begin construction for another 18 months.

“I don’t think it will delay it right now because it works with other aspects of things Meijer needs to get done, but it could possibly delay it,” he said. “It depends on how long it takes for them, for ODOT, to determine exactly what they’re going to insist on.”

Route 82 between Route 8 and Olde Eight Road to the west has long been something of a bottleneck, especially since just west of Giant Eagle, it narrows to just one lane each way.

“The road needs to be widened all the way down to Olde Eight,” said Township Trustee Rich Reville.

Reville said that as far as he knows, the matter is currently between Miejer and ODOT and the township is not involved.

“As of now, there’s nothing, nothing until the state finishes up with their work,” he said. “Until ODOT finishes up with their work and gets back to Meijer and Meijer decides what they want to do and go forward, if they want to go forward.”

Meanwhile a second access to the shopping center that is nearing completion — from Route 8 directly — is another variable in the traffic situation.

Saunders said the impact of the new right-in, right-out access into the Crossings from Route 8 would have to be factored in since it is expected to mitigate some of the traffic around the Crossing’s Route 82 entrance.

“That will help Meijer to some degree,” he said.

Saunders said Meijer understands that it will have to make some road improvements, but the company is only willing to go so far.

“They’re willing to widen the road for what their traffic generates, not fix the problem that currently exists,” he said.

Chesnic said this fits with ODOT’s intentions.

“Our goal in all this is just to make sure that however the roadway is functioning now in the area, [a Meijer store] doesn’t make it worse,” he said. “So if they have to add capacity, that’s to be determined, but what we need is whatever level of service is out there now to the motoring public, this can’t make it worse.”

Spitzer A-Team has tried to develop its 44 acres there commercially for more than 20 years.

Meijer initially expressed interest in constructing a store on vacant land west of the Spitzer Chevrolet dealership in 2015, saying it would bring about 250 jobs, but the township rejected Spitzer's request to have the land rezoned from residential to commercial.

Spitzer took the issue to court and won its case in 2019, forcing a settlement with the township that allowed the rezoning. A little over 6 acres along Route 82 was already zoned for commercial use and the settlement allowed for another 16.6 acres to also be rezoned commercial.

The remaining 21 acres farther to the north remains R-1 single family under the settlement and Spitzer agreed to not make any requests to have it rezoned in the future.

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.