December 1, 2020

Beachwood looks to expand reinvestment area; trick-or-treat set for Oct. 31

BEACHWOOD, Ohio — City Council is favoring the idea of expanding Beachwood’s community reinvestment area (CRA) as a means of attracting or keeping businesses. Council discussed the matter during its online meeting Monday (Oct. 5).

In Ohio, when used for commercial and industrial purposes, a CRA allows a city to grant up to 100 percent tax abatement for as many as 15 years — but only on the added value a project creates. City Council would have the ability to grant varying percentages and time lengths on a case-by-case basis as businesses apply for CRA benefits.

Beachwood formed its first CRA in May 2018, at the business/industrial area along Commerce Park and the nearby residential area of Concord and Beacon drives.

It is now considering adding to its CRA territory the Beachwood Place mall site west to Richmond Road, and the north side of Chagrin Boulevard, from Richmond Road west.

“It would basically be all of our commercial property,” Mayor Martin Horwitz said of the expanded area.

In explaining the desire to expand the CRA, Horwitz said: “When developers look at any area to invest in, whether rehabbing or building something new, they are looking for incentives. We are competing with every other city, and this is what they are doing all over the country.”

If abatement granted exceeds 50 percent, a city must get the consent of its school district. In Beachwood’s case, however, the current CRA and its expected expanded area will allow for only up to 50 percent abatement for 10 years, not the full 100 percent the state allows.

The CRA also applies to remodeling and building new homes in providing abatement for up to 10 years.

“I would just like to let folks know how important this CRA expansion is,” said James Heller, the longtime architect that the city recently hired as an economic development consultant.

“I can tell you there are several people I’ve spoken with that are in development and, within the first five minutes, the first thing that comes up is, does the city of Beachwood have any vehicle arrangements by which we can discuss property taxes or some other methodology by which we can develop a building or remodel a building? These questions get asked. We are in competition with other cities.”

Heller said he recently spoke with a business owner, now in a downtown Cleveland location, who is looking to expand his building by 30,000 square feet, and to do so as inexpensively as possible. For business owners such as this, Heller said, “It’s important to have (a CRA) in place when a developer is looking, or a purchaser of a building is looking to move on that opportunity, especially in the environment we’re living in today.”

Councilman Mike Burkons asked Heller how many cities have a “blanket CRA covering the whole city.” Burkons said other communities create a CRA when needed.

“When there are opportunities for a developer to come to a particular city,” Heller answered, “questions are asked. How fast can I get it approved? How open can I be in discussions? In my previous role as an architect, seven years ago, we lost five retailers because of how long it took to get the mall rezoned. If these things drag out, Beachwood will lose out.”

Council put the CRA expansion, and an agreement with Beachwood Schools concerning the granting of future CRA abatement, on second reading, with votes likely to take place in two weeks.

Trick-or-treating is a go — with precautions

Horwitz also announced that trick-or-treating would take place in Beachwood from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31, pending any new orders from the Ohio Department of Health or the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

Trick-or-treaters 2 years of age and older, as well as their chaperones, must wear COVID-19-appropriate masks; carry and frequently apply hand sanitizer; only trick-or-treat at houses with their porch lights turned on; only trick-or-treat with members of their own household; and observe social distancing regulations.

Those answering doors must only hand out candy individually and not use a group bowl; wear gloves while distributing candy; place candy in a child’s bag, not their hands; and try to use other creative methods of distributing candy, such as hanging treats from a wall, fence or decorated board, or making a “candy slide” from a PVC pipe.

The mayor also asked that those passing out candy mark 6-foot lengths on the walkway to their front door in order to promote social distancing.

The city reserves the right to rescind trick-or treat pending updated orders from the state or county.

“It’s unfortunate, because so much has been taken away from kids this year because of COVID-19. So for two hours, we’re going to give them a chance to dress up and walk around the city,” Horwitz said.

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