Westfield Great Northern Mall, Ohio proposes multi-million-dollar upgrade

Westfield Great Northern Mall officials are proposing a multi-million dollar upgrade including a new food court depicted here. (Graphic courtesy of Westfield Great Northern Mall)

Mall proposes multi-million-dollar upgrade
By Jeff Gallatin
North Olmsted
Published July 29, 2009

Westfield Great Northern Mall officials have proposed a multi-million dollar remodeling project which they believe will help what the area’s appetite for using the facility.

Mall and Westfield officials presented the proposal to the North Olmsted Municipal Planning and Design Commission July 22. The proposal involves relocating the existing food court to the area on the north side of the mall in the vicinity of Dick’s Sporting Goods. The existing food court will be renovated to accommodate two new major retail tenants for that area while existing food businesses, those located above the food court and mall offices will move to other parts of the mall.

In addition, Westfield will update the building façade and exterior for the new tenants, create a new mall entry near Sears and improve the mall entry near Dick’s as part of the proposal, which Westfield officials hope to begin later this year if city officials give final approval to the plans.

Kurt Reddick, general manager for the mall, said Westfield officials have worked hard to present the best possible proposal for the mall and the surrounding community.

“We realize there is an ongoing need to revitalize and upgrade the mall to present the best possible environment for people using it and the area around it.”

In considering the proposal, Planning and Design Commission officials recommended some variances related to the design proposal for signs, discussed others and held off on acting on portions of the plan until all members of the commission are present. The recommended variances will go to the Board of Zoning Appeals for further consideration before the proposal comes back to the commission. In turn, the commission will consider a final recommendation on the project which will go to North Olmsted City Council.

John Lasko, chairman of the Planning and Design Commission, said the group is giving the proposal careful scrutiny.

“We recognize the importance of the proposal to the Mall and appreciate its efforts to renovate and upgrade itself to continue to make it a valued part of the community,” he said. “At the same time we’re also aware of how it affects that surrounding community and we will review it to make sure the community’s needs are represented and taken care of.”

Lasko said he appreciates having a major part of the city business community propose major upgrades in the current economy.

“That says a lot that they’re willing to invest that in our area,” he said.

Evan Vlaeminck, development manager for Westfield, said keeping its property updated is imperative for the mall.

“This will inject new life and energy into the area,” he said.

There will not be a need for additional parking because overall there will be a net loss of retail footage, mall officials said. However, in addition to the two new major retail tenants, there will be new businesses in the new food court, Reddick said.

Vlaeminck said moving the food court to a different area will allow the mall to better utilize a large amount of space at the current site for a major retail tenant.

Westfield officials said they are still in discussions with one of the major tenants and can’t release its identity at this time.

In discussing the proposal, Commission members reviewed different aspects of the plan and how it would affect the area.

Some of the discussion focused on placement of a sign on a metal penthouse type structure on top of the Mall building for one tenant. Some commission members expressed concern about the possible large size of a sign while Westfield officials said the retail tenant has said having such a sign is a crucial part of any agreement. Commission and Westfield officials eventually worked out a proposed compromise as part of the proposal.

“Both sides give a little, that’s what a compromise entails,” said Vlaeminck.

Commission member Greg Malone, a professional landscaper, expressed concern about some aspects of the area near Sears. Malone said that three trees should be replaced. Malone and other members looked over different aspects of the proposal to make sure it would be an appropriate entryway.

Westfield officials said they have been trying to discuss the area with Sears and have not heard back from Sears, which controls its property. Westfield officials said they would continue to try and communicate with Sears.

Ward 4 City Councilman Larry Orlowski, whose ward includes the mall, said he’s discussed the proposal with Westfield officials and is in favor of the overall plan.

City Officials expect the proposal to be considered again by the Commission in mid-August after the variances go before the Board of Zoning Appeals.

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