ST. CLAIRSVILLE Progress is being made on improvements and upgrades to the area around the mall, with the goal of bringing in more business in the growing economy.
A deed was filed with the recorder's office January for the in-house transfer of ownership of 36 acres of land west of the mall complex that had been intended for business development. The plan was stalled due to a delayed highway plan for a new mall interchange with a bridge over I-70 to link the 36-acre Cafaro site with the 99 acres of St. Clair Commons, between plaza and the city, with a connection to the National Road.
An earmark for $7 million for the original I-70 project is still in existence. The Ohio Department of Transportation first considered the project nine years ago.
"We think the road is moving along after being stalled for several years. We're making significant progress," said St. Clairsvile Service Director Dennis Bigler, adding that the city has led interests including the Transportation Improvement District, the county and the township, Belomar and ODOT.
"The construction plans for this roadway are largely complete as far as the first section we're looking to build," Bigler said.
"We're very actively working on the project," said Bigler, adding that city representatives have met with ODOT and the process is proceeding. The plan includes the building of a road down from 40, across the interstate and connecting the mall area to Banfield Road. "We're still working on the development of the acreage between 40 and I-70."
Bigler said more specifics should be forthcoming as the talks continue.
"We think that there should be a decision with the development interests that we're speaking with hopefully yet this year," he said. "We continue to work on that and we continue to work on the highway issue."
He added that the city has worked on the project consistently on the project since receiving the earmark.
"This project's had a lot of ups and downs. It's been very difficult, but ODOT is on track with it and making a lot of progress," he said, noting that there may be an ODOT stakeholders meeting this September to go into the status of the work in depth. "But we know from the work that ODOT's consultant has done to date that there is a traffic benefit to Mall Road by building what we call a connector road."
Bigler said this should unburden Mall Road, which often suffers backups out to the interstate at some times of year. Additionally, an area of several hundred acres will be opened up for better economic development.
"That is essentially landlocked from a development standpoint," he said.
"I am hoping that we would start building the road next spring," Bigler said.
He added that the city is dealing with specific developers who are interested in the area. He added that the project would not specifically be retail-based, although the original, tentative plans speculated the possibility of retail.
"The roadway is important. Improved access is very important to these interests," he said, adding that they are taking care in proceeding with the project. "We're very intent with the developer on building a project that meshes well with the existing city and with the existing community."
"We're expecting a lot of growth around the mall and plaza area, behind the plaza and west of the mall," said Commissioner Matt Coffland, also working with the Transportation Improvement District. "The commissioners and the TID have been working very close with developers on both sides."
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