Developers target Austintown area for a commerce park

A developer is looking to build a 'public/private partnership.'
AUSTINTOWN -- Tall Timbers Industrial Park once was just a 154-acre field of soybeans, much like the other fields that surround the city of Findlay in northwest Ohio.
Today, the 257-acre park is home to 13 manufacturing plants, four distribution centers and about 2,000 jobs.
"It has a wonderful impact on the whole area," said Jonathan Levy, president of Route 46 Land Partners in Youngstown.
John Kovach, a Struthers native and managing partner of Comprehensive Development Solutions in Findlay, said the park is an "incredible success."
Levy and Kovach are working to set the stage for a similar development on 379 acres south of Interstate 80 near state Route 11 in Austintown.
The land, owned by Levy's company, is slated to become Centerpointe Business Park.
Kovach's company has been hired as a consultant. Besides the Findlay project, Kovach has helped develop commerce parks in Sheffield and Willard.
In Findlay, he's helped develop a total of 818 acres into sites for 28 manufacturing companies that employ about 4,300 workers. Findlay is a city of about 39,000 about 50 miles south of Toledo on Interstate 75.
Seeking a zoning change
This week, Levy is expected to ask the Mahoning County Planning Commission and Austintown Zoning Commission to recommend changing the zoning of the land from agricultural, business and residential to light industrial.
The Austintown zoning code allows for construction of "light industrial, storage and warehousing which are clean, quiet and free of hazardous or objectionable elements."
The county planning commission meets at 1 p.m. Tuesday; the township zoning commission meets at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Township trustees have the final say on the zoning change. They could vote on it in early November.
They've expressed enthusiasm for the Centerpointe proposal.
"There is no weak point to this project," said Trustee Rich Edwards, who has been to Findlay and is "very impressed" with Tall Timbers.
No businesses are slated yet to build in Centerpointe. Kovach said he and Levy want to ensure zoning is changed before they market it.
"You don't want to take anything for granted," he said. "You go through the right procedure, allowing people to get input, and then you take the next step."
"We want to make sure this thing is a success from day one," Levy added. He stressed, however, that local residents shouldn't expect to see thousands of new jobs when the park opens.
Looking ahead
Levy would like the park to attract a few new businesses each year. "If we can start to get these up and do a couple of them a year ... ultimately, in time, it's going to be a wonderful asset for the community," he said.
Plans call for about 190 acres west of state Route 11 to be divided into 30 lots. Lanterman Road, which starts at North Raccoon Road and ends east of state Route 11, would be extended to run through the middle of the development.
The remaining 190 acres east of state Route 11 is listed as Phase 2 in plans for the park.
A 50-foot-wide buffer of trees would separate the south end of the park from homes on Rutland and Benton avenues and Viola Drive.
Scott Weasel, the chief executive officer of Peterman Associates, Inc., of Findlay, said the property around state Route 11 was selected because of the high traffic count on area roads. Peterman Associates is the architectural and engineering firm.
Weasel also noted that the property's location between Pittsburgh and Cleveland and access to major highways also made an attractive site for the park.
The proposal also includes a draft of a list of architectural standards, including using natural resources for landscaping when possible and screening outdoor storage areas from view with a permanent wall.
Township zoning inspector Michael Kurilla Jr. called the standards "extraordinary."
Kovach and Levy both stressed they want to work with Kurilla and other local officials and residents to ensure the park is a success. Plans call Centerpointe a "public/private partnership."

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