Orange Village plans to jump on the Crocker Park bandwagon with its own upscale shopping and residential center designed by world-renowned Chicago architects RTKL. With a tentative opening set for fall 2016, Fairmount Properties' Pinecrest will be near Interstate 271's Harvard Road exit with a 360,000-square-foot retail development featuring Silverspot Cinema, West Elm, REI sporting goods, an office building and 70 high-end apartments. While voters approved a rezoning amendment for the project in 2013 and the school board OK'd a 30-year tax increment financing plan in April, that tax plan and traffic concerns have made it a hot-button issue. Orange Village Mayor Kathy Mulcahy and former councilman Ed Bonk make the case for and against the project.
Mayor Kathy Mulcahy thinks the project will draw consumers from nearby suburbs and throughout Northeast Ohio. "People have asked if we really need more retail," she says. "A total of 65 percent of the retail space will be leased to operations that do not currently exist in Northeast Ohio. And phase II of the project is planned to have 220 residential units, which will generate new real estate taxes." The incremental tax plan will help offset the cost to the developer for infrastructure such as roads. "It's not a tax break," she says. "We're not giving away anything we had. We're gaining." As for concerns about increased traffic on Chagrin Boulevard, Mulcahy compares it to the debate about the Harvard Road exit being built. "I'm not pooh-poohing the traffic concerns," she says, "but those fears are not based on evidence. The Harvard Road interchange did not bring the death of Orange Village and neither will this."
Former Orange Village councilman and 30-year resident Ed Bonk calls the development "corporate welfare at its worst." In Bonk's words, the tax plan is "a tax diversion" in which public money enriches a private party. "Add up the numbers and look at the winners and losers," he says. "The village gets $21 million over 30 years but diverts $130 million in tax dollars." Bonk also disagrees with the assertion that Pinecrest will be an economic windfall for the community. "A demand for products and services is related to an increase in population or an increase in income. We don't have either of those in Greater Cleveland." Bonk, who has formed a Facebook group opposed to the development called Citizens For Orange, warns the village will have "more crime, a mountain of traffic and more pollution" with nearby residential streets such as Orangewood Drive becoming major thoroughfares.