Solon, in the southeast corner of Cuyahoga County, is a city any other community would envy.
The public schools’ test scores ranked No. 1 statewide in 2015-2016. The industrial section contains more than 400 plants, offices and warehouses. The housing stock ranges from modest ranches to mini-mansions in golf-course subdivisions.
But Solon is also home to a variety of retailers, including a growing number of restaurants, and is making room for more by sprucing up its commercial areas and offering financial incentives to businesses and developers. Also, about a year ago, the city adopted a new master plan that emphasizes retail.
“Commercial development is our No. 1 priority,” Mayor Susan Drucker says. “Solon residents want and deserve a wide variety of eating and shopping options, and we are prepared to do whatever is necessary to make that happen.”
One recent retail project, completed in 2014, redeveloped the former Solar Shopping Center into Solon Village. The center was transformed from a bland strip to a shopping-dining destination with improved facades, renovated interiors and new outbuildings.
Meanwhile, unique eateries continue to move in. These include 56 Kitchen, opened in 2016 by strEAT Mobile chef Izzy Schachner and partner Jay Leitson. Other relatively new Solon restaurants include Burgers 2 Beer, the vegetarian spot Munch and Swirl Wine Bar.
On Enterprise Parkway, a retail island in the industrial district, a developer wants to tear down part of a retail strip to make room for a new hotel, Townplace Suites by Marriott. Enterprise already has three hotels, not to mention restaurants and a movie theater, for business visitors.
To help businesses and developers, Solon has created a Growth and Revitalization Incentive Program. It’s a one-time grant for incoming businesses and property owners who renovate building exteriors. The maximum grant amount is $70,000, but the city would offer significantly more for a major shopping center redevelopment.
Also, the city’s updated master plan marks specific areas for improvements.
“Designating such areas is attractive to developers since they know what areas to focus on,” said Peggy Weil Dorfman, Solon’s economic development manager.
In addition, Solon has invested in its downtown, which now has a new fire station and Veterans Memorial Park. More beautification is on the agenda.
“Through proactive outreach, permitting assistance, incentives and other municipal investment, Solon is prepared to partner with developers and businesses to reach our development goals,” Drucker says.