Developers Unveil Plans for Whitney-Pearl
O'Charley's gets a warm welcome from small group of residents; Sheetz, not so much
Developers gave residents their first glimpse of plans for the northeast corner of Pearl and Whitney roads Tuesday night, seeking to build an O'Charley's restaurant and a Sheetz gas station in front of Lowe's.
The Nashville, TN-based restaurant chain is seeking to construct a 6,400-square-foot eatery that would seat about 200 on the other side of the access road from GFS.
If things go smoothly, the company could break ground in the summer and open four months later, architect Kim Phillips said.
Sheetz would go at the corner of Whitney and Pearl.
About two dozen residents at the meeting welcomed O'Charley's, which would include a patio and an extensive menu.
"We need somthing on that side of town," one woman in the audience commented.
They were less enthusiastic about Sheetz, which wants to build a service station and food-oriented convenience store, with a car wash in the back, architect David Mastrostefano said.
Business owner Mike O'Donnell complained the chain would put nearby family-owned companies out of business.
"Sheetz eats competitors alive," he said.
Abraham Majar, who has owned the Gas & Food station on Pearl Road for nine years, said the neighborhood doesn't need Sheetz.
"They will chase us out," Majar said. "They're not bringing anything the neighborhood doesn't have."
Scott Bagi, who owns the Laser Wash at the corner of Pearl Road and Strongsville Boulevard, said he believes the Sheetz' car wash would put him out of business.
"It's the exact same car wash as mine," he said.
Ward 4 Councilman Scott Maloney said he opposes the Sheetz project, too.
"It’s not even remotely in keeping with what residents were promised when a mini-Crocker Park concept was introduced with great fanfare years ago," Maloney said.
Maloney said he wants to develop Pearl based on an overall vision, not a "patchwork quilt of projects."
"Until we have an updated comprehensive plan, that includes citizen input, we run the risk of ending up with a non-descriptive, disjointed mass of commercial properties stretching along the two main arteries that are supposed to define the core of our community," he said.
Other residents complained a gas station would add to already-frustrating traffic jams in the area.
Mayor Tom Perciak, who attended the meeting with a number of Strongsville officials, told the audience their fears are premature and that the meeting was the beginning of a long process that would require a rezoning -- Sheetz would need its parcel rezoned from general business to motor services -- and scrutiny from elected officials and the police and fire departments.
"We're all here and we're listening to what you have to say," said Perciak, who pointed out that Sheetz also sought to build on the opposite side of Pearl, on the former Quality Catering site, last year.
Residents near the site objected. "We listened, and decisions were made," Perciak said. "Sheetz also listened and sought another site."
WXZ Development Inc. has taken over the long-in-coming development at Pearl and Whitney roads, picking up where the Toledo-based Timberstone development group left off when it ran into financial obstacles and bowed out in 2009.
Timberstone was the second developer to plan and then abandon a project there.
O'Charley's describes itself as a fun, casual-dining family restaurant that is known for its fresh-from-the-oven rolls.
It also offers steaks, chicken, salads and desserts, as well as a Sunday brunch.
O'Charley's operates more than 230 restaurants in the United States, including one in Cuyahoga Falls. There are also O'Charley's restaurants in Canal Winchester (just outside Columbus), Boardman, Niles and Cincinnati.
Residents were promised a major retail project, to be called Renaissance Park, that would include a grocery store and a mix of other retail and restaurants by original developer David Lewanski, who in late 2005 said he had commitments from Lowe's, Bed Bath & Beyond and Circuit City to locate there.
When Lewanski left, Timberstone proposed a multi-phased project that would include smaller retail stores, restaurants and office space.