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Mayor Calls Executive's Portage Crossing Complaints 'Unconscionable'

Since January, Acme Fresh Market President Steve Albrecht has criticized the city's Portage Crossing financing plan when paired against the State Road Acme expansion deal.

The State Road Acme project

Acme Fresh #10, a 60-year-old supermarket located at 2226 State Rd., is expanding from 30,000 to 52,000 square feet to accommodate a new bakery, floral and prepared food departments, a pharmacy and specialty meat case.

The $8.5 million project, subsidized in part by the city, broke ground last May and will likely be complete this year, said Acme President Steve Albrecht

The proposed Portage Crossing project

Portage Crossing, a proposed 256,000-square-foot retail center, would be constructed on about 25 acres at Portage Trail where the former State Road Shopping Center once stood, according to Cuyahoga Falls Planning and Zoning Director Fred Guerra. 

The city purchased the defunct center in 2008 and demolished it in 2009, with land acquisition and initial investment expenses totaling $11 million.

Groundbreaking for Portage Crossing was slated for last summer, but the project -- which is expected to create 400 to 600 new jobs -- has hit several deal finalization, project design and land acquisition delays.

According to the Falls-News Press, Cuyahoga Falls' net investment in Portage Crossing is $6.4 million and the developer's net investment is $42.1 million. For Acme, the city's net investment is $1.27 million and the developer's net investment is $9.86 million.

Albrecht's grievances

Since January, Albrecht has written and distributed letters to Falls Mayor Don Robart and City Council questioning whether Portage Crossing, and its planned 92,000-square-foot Giant Eagle store, would infringe upon his grocery business.

Albrecht also aired complaints regarding the city's multi-million dollar investment in Stark's planned retail center, saying the mayor verbally promised Albrecht would receive the same incentives on a proportional basis that Portage Crossing has received.

In an April 8 letter, Albrecht wrote: 

Please find attached, a workbook modeling a funding structure we believe is consistent with your promise to equalize on a proportionate basis the City’s funding of our re-development project with the funding provided for the Portage Crossing re-development.

This parity analysis isbased on the Amended and Restated Contractfor Sale of Land for Private Redevelopment by and between the City of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and Portage Crossing LLC passed by City Council on June 25, 2012.

We understand this agreement has since been amended — several times - in various ways, such as to provide for a $70,000 per year electric subsidy, an additional developer subsidy of $129,000 based on a movie ticket tax, etc. Our parity funding model will, therefore, require your careful review to assure that it is in full compliance with your parity standard.

Mayor's response

In an April 10 email to the Falls News-Press, Robart refuted several of Albrecht's statements, saying, "As far as I'm concerned, the Acme case is closed. His (April 8) letter is fraught with errors and his persistence in trying to leverage additional money out of the city is unconscionable."

For more on the story, refer to the letters between Albrecht and Robart attached in .pdf form to this post.

Jimm Motyka April 17, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Yet to be fair, PC is a moving target too. I do think it's good that people are looking for accountability from their elected officials. Don't you wish there were term limits in place for the city officials? Legacy building isn't always a good thing for the common citizen.
Jimm Motyka April 17, 2013 at 04:24 PM
I heard this new plan includes costumed characters, since this is turning into a giant Mickey Mouse production. We can rename it "Imaginationland".
Scott Gatrell April 17, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Albrecht signed an agreement, then changed the design plans with out getting city approval, and now he's back with his hand out looking to modify his deal with the project done????? Yes, I would like to hear the mayor respond with some facts, but I believe Albrecht is not acting in good faith based on the track record Of his project thus far. I believe he is trying to gain an advantage over his competition at the expense of taxpayers. Remember, any city help actually comes at the expense of the citizens since that is where the city gets its funding. Why should we renegotiate his deal when he has already violated the rules??? Apparently Albrecht thinks he should be rewarded for his bad behavior.
wmfr April 17, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Acme is trying to bully by copying letters to the press. Who takes on a project of this magnitude without a revised contract of subsidies? The subsidies that were published in news press seemed in line with PCs and don't forget that this store has not been remodeled in 60 years and was over due without the arrival of PCs. Acme is making bank hand over foot in summit county and 8mil investment is fair considering the amount of profit they've made the last decade alone off this store. The only reason they spent is because they realize this customer base that shops on state road is worth a lot more than 8 million and did not want to risk losing to a new giant eagle.
Scott Gatrell April 17, 2013 at 05:11 PM
I also do not like the idea of Portage Crossing getting electric subsidies. I would like to see that put into rate cuts for citizens, or eliminated altogether.
David Kearns April 17, 2013 at 05:47 PM
I expected more from the city and the State Road developer. We've seen delay after delay. The beginning of the story here says.. " Since January, Albrecht has written and distributed letters to Falls Mayor Don Robart and City Council questioning whether Portage Crossing, and its planned 92,000-square-foot Giant Eagle store, would infringe upon his grocery business..." Psst, there is a Giant Eagle store a stone throw away from the plaza, which has been remodeled several times over the years. So I doubt that having Giant Eagle on State Rd will take business away from Acme. Further, having a nice shopping plaza will drive more customers to the area from elsewhere. Besides, Acme has a fan/customer base, and always will.
wmfr April 17, 2013 at 05:53 PM
True - But the infractions on the windows was blown out of proportion by the city. That said Acme's people that do store build outs should be aware of each cities codes/rules that they operate in,
Jimm Motyka April 17, 2013 at 06:54 PM
Acme is local and Giant Eagle's profits all go to Pittsburgh. Even though both over-inflate their prices, I will always opt for Acme over the Big (Giant) Bird (Eagle). It goes back to what others were saying about destination shopping. Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Kirbie's get the majority of my shopping dollars, except when the farmer market season starts. Acme has always been my fallback store. What I find more ironic is that no one mentioned Marc's, who (without frequent shopper cards) always kicks the butts of both Acme and Big Bird in the price department.
robert falls April 17, 2013 at 07:07 PM
Albrecht doesn't object to having a competitor a few hundred yards closer. He objects to the taxpayers of C.F. subsidizing the move, including free electricity. I don't blame him one bit. Robart is trying anything to save this project, and unfortunately is willing to pay big bucks for a grocer to move across the street. The whole thing is a sham.
John Deike April 17, 2013 at 07:40 PM
Afternoon Nolan, If you have a sec, check out the Falls-News Press article that I hyperlinked to in the article above to see more of Robart's comments on the issue. Thanks for contributing on the post. Best regards, JD
wmfr April 17, 2013 at 07:41 PM
a big sham? Cfalls and stark hired a research firm to study demographic and buying patterns of falls residents including to find out where they are spending their money. Acme is getting the same subsidies on a smaller scale, so to say that Albrecht is upset about taxpayers funding the move is not accurate. He is asking for MORE subsidies. The truth of the matter is WE SHOULD NOT provide free electric or really anything that we don't do for any other business. It's disappointing these guys including Acme get anything better than what you or I would get if we opened a business. However, don't just blame the falls for this. Most cities accommodate to these types of requests from developers etc...Which is unfair, in my opinion.
Jimm Motyka April 17, 2013 at 09:40 PM
Movie ticket tax, too! Now you know why I was calling him out as a RINO.
Rick Bonath April 18, 2013 at 01:47 AM
Giant Eagle is more expensive than Acme anyway. The fuel perks GE has are a joke and it takes two months to save anything. lol
Rick Bonath April 18, 2013 at 01:53 AM
The whole project is a big sham. How long have we been waiting for this? Too long. Something tells me we're barely going to break even after all these subsidies. Funny when people get assistance it's called socialism but when companies get it, it's called business as usual! The development area is a bald spot in the city, they really need to move it or lose it. If McDonalds can rebuild their store in 2 weeks I think 4+ years is sufficient to build a shopping center.
Earl Elevant April 18, 2013 at 04:05 AM
Robart hates Acme because it's one of the few things left that's been around the Falls longer than he has.
Scott Gatrell April 18, 2013 at 10:25 AM
Lol! That's funny Earl!
Lou Schott April 18, 2013 at 11:56 AM
To: All of the kind community members who want to be involved and make informed choices, In my opinion, you (we) can be more effective when we cooperate just a tiny bit. Here is one technique: 1. Send an email to: mayor@cityofcf.com and lawdepartment@cityofcf.com 2. Request the records used to make the decisions related to your topic. 3. Post a copy of your email on Patch.com, FallsNewsPress.com and Ohio.com. 4. Start the count of how long your request for a public record has been pending. 5. Post your count of the lag time from your request to when you get a useful reply. Now, you have positioned yourself as a credible investigative reader. Remember, we no longer have investigative reporters. It takes too much time. But, we do now have the capacity to reach out and influence our community almost instantly. And, yet we still have a problem with our media platforms of Patch, FallsNewsPress, Ohio.com. The problem is that they do not tell us how many people actually read what we bother to write. The Google tools do give the writer feedback on the number of readers. Now, you have the force of the Ohio Law on your side.
Jimm Motyka April 18, 2013 at 12:02 PM
Brilliant suggestion! Let's use this to do the work that journalists once did. Being a former editor for a local music paper (from 1989 to 1995), there's more credibility when the grass root movements are well informed. We have all been relying on what the press is telling us and then getting upset by what they decide to report. As I have been trying to preach here, if people take off their bi-partisan glasses and go directly at the issues, the truth eventually surfaces. Great idea, Lou!
Jimm Motyka April 18, 2013 at 12:10 PM
Maybe the issue is more the fact that he won't be able to place a plaque on the Acme with his name on it. Of course, it's everywhere else, including the Doodlebug memorial that people come from all over the U.S. to see. Hmmm...is it too late for the nickname of "Mayor Doodlebug"? Should PC be known as Doodlebugville, which will bring more people to see the Doodlebug memorial? And we need a hotel next to the Doodlebug memorial, which we can call the Hotel Doodlebug. Joe Walsh is still a local guy, so maybe the Eagles can write a song about it. Alright, maybe I've had too many cups of coffee this morning. (I hope people are noting the sarcasm here and not taking this comment seriously.)
Lou Schott April 18, 2013 at 12:58 PM
To: Jimm Motyka and all of our kind people who just want honest, open, and repsonsible leadership in our public information organizations, Thank you for the positive feedback. From a systems view of our community, we need to understand that the capacity of our new tools, techniques, and training now give each community member more individual capacity to increase the quality of our community conversations. The history of civilization has repeated the patterns of the master - slave relationships in many more venues than the one highlighted by our civil war. But, let me hasten to say the victims of the civil war and their ancestors suffered far more than the victims of today suffer. And, yet our key public information organizations do unknowingly victimize the public whom they are paid to serve. But, they do so out of more ignorance than our slave owners of the past. Time is required to develop this premise in a complete systematic manner. So, I will leave it for another day. lschott1@gmail.com
Patty April 18, 2013 at 01:37 PM
Robart needs to resign period!
Nolan April 18, 2013 at 02:53 PM
LOL Awesome!
Nolan April 18, 2013 at 02:58 PM
If you want to request something under the FOIA or public files, you PHYSICALLY write a letter and mail it first-class with return receipt. Email can easily be manipulated -- on both ends, not be received, etc. Plus, email just screams lazy. And you should also educate yourself on the actual law. There is no specified time they need to respond. They have a "reasonable" amount of time to respond. Of course, the more you ask, the more time it'll take. You could also make your request a little easier if you're willing to pay for photocopies of requested information (which, IIRC, can not exceed a specific amount per page). People should give AT LEAST 30 days for a response.
JimErin Bossler April 18, 2013 at 03:51 PM
When I see these comments, all I see is people who like to complain. I'm pretty sure you are able to schedule a meeting with the mayor and tell him what you think... he works for you, you pay him. I'm also pretty sure you have the right to attend public meetings and show a genuine concern for your city. Maybe you do that, I don't know. But if the amount of your complaining starts and stops here, you're missing the target of your disdain. Here's what I know: My trash is picked up every week. I have decent water, my electric is cheap. Rt. 8 gets paved every 5-8 years in a relatively small amount of time, the city looks pretty at Christmas and there's a lot of things to do with my family. There are some awesome businesses in the city that bring people into the city limits from outside to spend their money here. If they thought it was such a terrible place to do business, they'd leave... but they don't. I just recently sold my house, but I didn't want to move out of the CF because it's a great place to raise a family... so I bought in the falls again! I think the school system gets a bad rap, but I also think they can improve. Folks, you have to take the good with the bad... I think it's a great city.
Diana R April 18, 2013 at 05:21 PM
what's wrong with some competition? Marcs is right down the street, are they crying the blues because Acme is FINALLY upgrading? As a consumer I say bring on the business, it helps to keep my prices down :)
wmfr April 18, 2013 at 05:35 PM
Exactly. The mayor is good....I think there may be other good options for mayor in future too. There are so many cry babies that complain non stop yet NEVER attend a meeting or will ever meet with the Mayor one on one. THEY JUST COMPLAIN TO no end. Leave the Falls if you're so unhappy here.
Lou Schott April 18, 2013 at 07:12 PM
To: wmfr and the other kind people who care about our community, I have met with two of our three mayors several times in the past ten years, I asked them, "What is our shared purpose statement for our city?" The reply that I got from one was, "Who ever heard of a city with a purpose statement?" The other mayor seemed indifferent. The reason that leaders develop a purpose statement is to pull the team, group, community into the future. If a team or group does not have a purpose then the only unifying principle is the ego of the leader. And, that may change with the weather or situation. A search on the Internet will come up with a number of responsible mayors in other cities with a purpose statement. If I had it to do over again, I suppose that I should have asked the question around 'shared purpose' by asking, "How can we (the people) help each other?" I am not sure if that would have produced a more hospitable reply. I will likely never know. Maybe someone else might give it a go.
Lou Schott April 18, 2013 at 07:35 PM
To: JimErin Bossler and the other kind folks who are satisfied with the past successful performances of our public officials, Let's assume that everyone in our community agrees with your above statements. Can we describe your view point as driving into the future based on looking into the rear view mirror? I want to connect to people who want to plan for the future of our community. To do so, we need to examine the tools, techniques, and training needed for our community members. And, we need to improve the quality of our community conversations. So, when I see a comment that confuses other comments as complaints then I feel uneasy. WE (the people) now have and are now using tools (the Internet) that have never ever been available in the history of civilization. WE need to discuss how WE will get all of our key public officials informed and involved in our community -- directly. They do not need to hire an intermediary to fat finger a reply for posting online. If we want our community to be uniquely attractive to young professionals who might want to move here then we must act on our capacity to distinguish between the good (useful) and the bad (useless). Businesses do it. Our school districts are trying to do it? Why don't our library directors and city administrators do it?
wmfr April 18, 2013 at 08:09 PM
The question will catch someone off guard I suppose. I agree with your point on a mission / purpose statement. There has to be a set of standards that a leader and his subordinate believe in and desire to maintain and a common ground that needs to be followed. Sadly, this is not always the case in business or politics.
JimErin Bossler April 22, 2013 at 07:29 PM
@Lou, I think we would probably agree on a lot of things. The point I am trying to make is that, of all the levels of government, local government is the most accessible. I can personally make an appointment with Don Robart if I so choose. I can figure out where my city councilman lives and knock on his/her door and pay a visit. As much as I'd like to think that people in our local government recognize their role as a public SERVANT, I don't expect my city councilman to knock on my door when I move to the neighborhood. The people of this town need to take ownership of their role in their community too. In my opinion, it's on them to seek out the public servant. Lou, you know it and I know it. These comments here are largely nothing but patronizing, useless sarcasm. Nothing productive... just critical comments regarding the length of time for this project and an apparent beef with the tenure of the current mayor. If anything makes you feel uneasy, it ought to be the way in which these useless comments gain traction. If anyone has any substantial complaint, saying it here is only useful if it resonates in the minds of the other readers. But even then, gaining momentum on a comment section of a news source doesn't hold a candle to the influence a resident has in personally meeting with the public servant. That's all I'm trying to say.

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