Acme leader thinks Cuyahoga Falls' position on a parity agreement is 'very unfair'

by STeve wiandt | REPORTER Published:

Cuyahoga Falls -- An Akron developer is calling the city's position toward a proposal he made to even out its subsidies to his project and one proposed by a Cleveland developer "very unfair to us."

Steve Albrecht, president of Acme Fresh Market grocery stores, sent a letter dated Jan. 4 to Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Robart, proposing a parity agreement for the re-development of his State Road Acme Fresh Market and adjacent properties. Albrecht Inc. is in the midst of building a new $8.5 million, 52,500-square-foot Acme Fresh Market grocery store at 2226 State Road, on the site of the original Acme #10, which has remained open during construction. Through an agreement with the city, Albrecht Inc., parent company of Acme, received a 10-year, 50-percent real estate tax abatement in March 2012 for the project. During his State of the City address on Feb. 27, Robart said that a grand opening for Acme's State Road building is scheduled for May 1.

Cleveland developer Bob Stark, president and CEO of Stark Enterprises, is planning to build Portage Crossing, a new 256,000 square foot shopping center on 25 acres at Portage Trail and State Road on the former site of State Road Shopping Center. The property was purchased by the city in 2008 and the buildings on the site were demolished the following year. The initial investment in buying the land and other expenses was $11 million. Truby said the city's net investment in the Portage Crossing project itself is $6.42 million and the developer's net investment is $42.1 million.

For the Acme project, the city's net investment is $1.27 million and developer's net investment is $9.86 million, according to Truby.

In the Jan. 4 letter, Albrecht proposed the city borrow $4.8 million, purchase Acme's State Road building and land for $3.8 million, and then have the city invest $1 million to make public improvements. Albrecht Inc. would then re-purchase the land and building back from the city for $3.8 million. That purchase amount would be placed in escrow where Albrecht Inc. would use it to pay for private improvements in the construction project and related measures. In his proposal, Albrecht appears to be asking for the city to take actions on the Acme project that parallel the actions it took on the Portage Crossing project.

He said his employees' jobs are "greatly enhanced by your promise of fair and equal treatment of these two projects," referring to a discussion the two had last year where Robart, according to Albrecht, promised to "keep the playing field level and not [play] favorites."

Albrecht, in the Jan. 4 letter, accused Robart of providing a "primary competitor … significant cost advantages that will jeopardize [Acme #10] jobs."

Giant Eagle is going to open a grocery store in Portage Crossing, according to city officials.

When contacted by the Falls News-Press, Albrecht declined to comment further for this story. Susan Truby, the city's community development director, said Robart asked her to address the paper's questions for this story.

"The City of Cuyahoga Falls' support for the Acme #10 project has certainly exceeded any other community's support," Truby said. "Both the City of Stow and the City of Green have (or will have) new (or redeveloped) Acme Stores within their jurisdictions -- neither community offered any financial incentives. Between Acme #12 [on Bailey Road in the Falls] and Acme #10, the City of Cuyahoga has made a total investment of $1,702,902."

"It is imperative we quickly finalize and fund our Parity Agreement," Albrecht wrote on Jan. 4. "The redevelopment of State Road Acme Fresh Market has been a very expensive project."

"The new Acme #10 store will create 14 new full-time jobs and Portage Crossing is estimated to create 468 new full-time jobs," Robart told Albrecht in a Jan. 18 letter. "Therefore, when comparing the city's commitment to your project … our cost for each of Acme's new jobs is approximately $90,954. Conversely, based on our commitment to Portage Crossing which includes land proceed reinvestment, CDBG funds, entertainment tax and electric rebates and matching funds to our public improvements, our costs for each job created equals $17,430."

If the city's original investment of $11 million were added in, Robart wrote, "the cost per job is $40,934 -- still well below our investment in Acme #10," and added that, "as I analyze reinvestment in our community, jobs are my primary objective."

Albrecht emailed Robart on Jan. 22, informing him he felt the city's position was "very unfair." Albrecht said jobs to be created was not part of his and Robart's discussion because "Albrecht Inc. is the developer not the tenant just like Portage Crossing is the developer and not the tenant."

Another email from Albrecht sent Feb. 1 to Robart and carbon-copied to Truby, thanked them and other city officials for meeting with him to discuss the issue on Jan. 31.

Truby said in an email to the Falls News-Press Feb. 25 the city has not discussed the matter further with Albrecht, and does not plan to.

Email: swiandt@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9420

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