Richmond Heights wants Belle Oaks developer to provide construction updates to residents (2024)

RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio -- City leaders want residents to know that, while the Belle Oaks project is still proceeding, the city is not hindering the development’s progress.

During Tuesday’s (Nov. 8) City Council meeting, Ward 2 Councilman Frank Lentine told Economic Development Director Brian Gleisser that residents regularly ask him what is happening with the mixed-use Belle Oaks Marketplace development planned for the former Richmond Town Square mall property.

“Where are we with Belle Oaks? What’s going on?” Lentine asked Gleisser. “I keep hearing so many different things about when it’s going to start. The residents keep asking us, or at least me, what’s going on? Are we (the city) holding up anything or are we waiting for anything? Where’s the ball?”

Gleisser answered that the city has been taking care of all it needs to do regarding permitting, approvals and financing He said that California developer DealPoint Merrill is now seeking bids for demolition of the mall building, which at this time is slated to take place in January.

Delays over the past six months have had to do with negotiations involving the City of Cleveland over water lines to the development, which will feature 800 deluxe apartments, and with the county over necessary sewer lines.

The sewer issue still has to go through the county approval process, now under way before Cuyahoga County Council.

“It’s just timing, that’s all, from the developer’s side, on financing,” Gleisser said in reassuring council that plans are progressing. “We’re now looking at December for (completion of) financing.”

Gleisser, referring to the January demolition date, said, “There’s a lot of ‘ifs’ tied to that, but everything seems to be on track.”

He said the city is not responsible for holding up the project.

“This is a very complicated project. It’s just bringing all these moving pieces together. And, in my opinion, it’s still on track. This scale of a project usually takes five to seven years to put together.”

DealPoint purchased its first building at Richmond Town Square -- the former Macy’s building -- in January 2018. It announced plans to redevelop the mall later in the year before purchasing the former Sears building in October 2018.

“It was always anticipated construction would begin in 2023,” Gleisser said, “and we all heard the Meijer (store) presentation that they would begin (construction) in spring 2023 and open in 2024.”

Meijer plans to build on the site where Planet Fitness is now located. Planet Fitness will move across Wilson Mills Road to Hilltop Plaza.

“I have not heard of any delays on (Meijer’s construction),” Gleisser said.

Speaking of the project’s current state, Gleisser said, “It’s (now about) tweaking the lot lines to coordinate with the building’s layouts, so this is all tweaking to get to financing.”

He also cautioned, “I would certainly give a heads-up that once construction starts, inevitably they find something they weren’t expecting, so there will be starts and stops with that.

“It’s all on a timeline, and it just doesn’t happen very fast in terms of what people think is fast. If you look at other development projects, this is moving at a little faster clip than usual.”

Another concern on the part of city leaders is who should be giving out progress reports on Belle Oaks. Mayor Kim Thomas told council that she spoke with DealPoint Merrill CEO David Frank and asked if he could provide updated information so it can be shared with residents.

“We get phone calls every day,” Thomas said of residents’ thirst for progress reports on the $290 million development.

She said that former councilman Jeremy Kumin, who now serves as DealPoint Merrill’s communications manager for the project, told her that Frank did not wish to provide information in the city’s newsletter. Thomas said that there is “confusion” in getting proper information as to when construction will start.

“As it stands right now, our team will not be the messenger to the residents,” Thomas said, “because every time we tell the residents it’s going to start in spring or fall, it never happens. So that’s why I gave (Frank and Kumin) the opportunity to ‘you talk.’

“I’ll give (them) space inside the City Edition (newsletter) -- a message from the developer -- and just tell us where you are.” Thomas said that offer was declined.

Thomas said there was talk that the approval of the site plan was holding things up, but said that was not true.

Building Commissioner Jim Urankar also confirmed that his department was not delaying the project in any way, as did City Engineer Lee Courtney.

The mayor asked Gleisser to speak with Frank and ask that progress be shared.

“My phone is constantly ringing,” Thomas said. “We need to tell the residents something.”

Said Gleisser, “They’re (DealPoint Merrill) reluctant to release information until they have definite answers.”

“At this point,” said Council President Bobby Jordan, “any information that is given to our community now, they (residents) almost look at as negative information, because so many promises have been made and nothing has been done.”

While Ward 4 Councilman Mark Alexander said DealPoint has, indeed, been sticking to its timeline, Thomas countered by saying that the developer has spoken in the past of demolition starting in the spring of this year and in the fall.

“So it has changed twice,” Thomas said.

Gleiser said that, in the development world, such changes in plans are not unusual.

“When they started, they didn’t know there would be this whole sewer capacity issue that has taken a whole six months,” he said.

The city took a stand that it did not want to be responsible for the sewers leading to and from the project site.

Gleisser asked all to remember that Belle Oaks is a private project and not a city project, so it will be carried out largely on the developer’s timeline.

When contacted Thursday (Nov. 10) by cleveland.com and asked if DealPoint Merrill had an update on the project, Kumin, by email, replied, “We continue to have no comment at this time.”

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Richmond Heights wants Belle Oaks developer to provide construction updates to residents (2024)

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