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Testa wants to build city center complex next to Tallmadge City Hall

by Holly Schoenstein | reporter Published: January 13, 2013 12:00 AM
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In the Jan. 6 edition of the Tallmadge Express, we reported the city's Planning & Zoning Commission was on board with Testa Companies' proposed city center complex on North Avenue near the Circle. This past week the proposal was introduced to City Council. The following are more details about the project:

Tallmadge -- If a major project that seeks to create a town center comes to fruition, the project's development team believes millions of dollars will be poured into the city.

Joel Testa, chief operating officer of the Testa Companies and co-owner of Mota Design Group of Cuyahoga Falls, and his team of architects, developers and others, are proposing to create "Tallmadge Town Center," a complex on 8.3 acres of mostly vacant land north of City Hall on North Avenue.

The idea to create a "destination area" or "lifestyle center" with a mixed-use development, combining various types of zoning in the same area. The feel will be similar to that of Legacy Village in Lyndhurst and Crocker Park in Westlake but will have a significant residential component, according to Testa.

Plans call for incorporating the former Tallmadge Middle School building -- the only structure left on the property -- City Hall, Tallmadge Police Department and two banks near the Circle.

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"In this type of development, we're estimating this is about a $38 million investment in development in the community," Testa said during a Planning & Zoning Commission meeting this month. "So there's a substantial amount of tax revenue for the community here, both in the real estate taxes and all of the business' income we're trying to create and deploy, as well as income tax from the people who will work there."

The Commission recommended to City Council that it approve the developer's request for a conditional zoning certificate for the property at 76 North Ave. Council is expected to vote on the request Jan. 24.

The property is zoned R-4, and in order for the project to move forward, it needs to secure the certificate that will permit a mixed-use development that allows for residential, retail, offices, day care centers for children and adults, educational institutions and restaurants, including fast food and those that serve alcohol.

According to city officials, even though the conditional zoning certificate will allow restaurants that serve alcohol, the city's fine dining district doesn't extend to the property. The city would have to further revise the zoning on the property to allow a restaurant that serves alcohol to open there.

If Council ultimately decides to grant the conditional zoning certificate, the developers will apply for federal senior tax credits that are administered through the state. Its application is due in February, and the credits are expected to be awarded in April.

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Stipulations of the tax credits include the developer owns the property for at least 15 years, and it remains "affordable senior housing" for at least 30 years, Testa said.

If the project is a go, construction could begin in November.

Residential focus,

will include other uses

According to Testa, the first phase of the project involves constructing an estimated 150,000-square-foot building that combines retail and residential on about 3 acres of the land.

The first floor of the southbound-facing building would be retail, the second and third levels would have one- and two-bedroom rental apartments for seniors with qualifying incomes, and the fourth would have one- and two-bedroom lofts and condos for sale or rent. The building would have a total of 83 residential units.

The projected rent for the apartments is between around $375 to $725 and includes the utilities of water, sewer, trash, gas and electric.

Private parking garages for the condos would be on the first floor, while parking for the apartments will be in lots outside.

The entrance for the apartments would be on the first floor, and the condos would have their own separate entrance.

Phase II

The development team is proposing to first create the main, mixed-use building on the property and then develop the rest of the land and incorporate existing buildings.

Possibilities for the second phase of the project include renovating the former middle school building so that it could accommodate medical, retail or residential.

"This historic schoolhouse still standing really has the potential to be a beautiful building upon renovation and that really serves as kind of an anchor point for this site," Brett Moses, an architect with Mota Design Group, said at the Commission meeting.

An addition to the west side of the former school building will add about 37,000-square-feet of space that could be used for a medical facility, such as urgent care center, child or adult day care or an educational facility. A fast food or other restaurant or retail could also be in the building.

To the east of the former school building, a 4,800-square-foot building could create more medical, office or retail space.

A two-tier water fountain surrounded by more parking spaces would sit in the middle of the complex and separate the mixed-use building from Phase I and the rest of the development from Phase II.

A 4,000-square-foot structure to the east of the fountain could be used as a community or senior center with a nearby and community pavilion.

An access drive that runs through the property and connects North and Northeast avenues would be created.

"I really see like a campus setting between the bank, City Hall, police department ," Mayor David Kline said.

Types of use, traffic concerns

Commission member Dianne Sumego raised the question of whether another medical facility was needed if the Akron General Tallmadge Health Center building across the street already has vacancies.

Testa said medical development is his companies' specialty and has found there are few vacancies across their portfolio at this time.

Commission members Gerald Taylor and Pat Larson and a North Avenue resident said they were concerned about how the development would affect traffic flow and congestion.

To that, the team said at this point in the process, a traffic study has not yet been completed but may be in the future if necessary.

Email: hschoenstein@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9428

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