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Meijer, Lidl Projects Boost Austintown Real Estate

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AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – The opening of the first Meijer supermarket in the Mahoning Valley is three years off, maybe longer, but anticipation of the chain’s entry is already stimulating interest in the Austintown real estate market.

So says real estate professional Jim Grantz, a broker and associate with Edward J. Lewis Inc., Youngstown.

In fact, Meijer’s entry to the market is only part of the development story being told in the suburban Mahoning County township, a tale that includes discount supermarket chain Lidl building a store on Mahoning Avenue, a new plaza to be built on the former site of Mike’s Lounge, construction of a new service station and upgrades to two more.

Meijer Stores Ltd., based in Grand Rapids, Mich., purchased the former Austintown Middle School, 5800 Mahoning Ave., in February 2016, as well as the building next door to that which housed the Austintown branch of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County.

The library building has been torn down and the goal is to have the school building leveled by the end of July, says township zoning inspector Darren Crivelli.

Meijer is “indicating to us a spring of 2021 opening,” Crivelli says.

During the zoning change, Meijer representatives told Crivelli three or four national chains normally follow in its footsteps.

Meijer’s future arrival has attracted one project at the former Mashorda’s County Gardens, Grantz confirms.

“It’s under contract with a developer. His intention is to develop a retail project there,” he says. “What sparked their interest is the fact Meijer is going to be right across the street.”

Grantz is working with the developer to secure clients for the project, he adds.

“It’s brisk. There’s a lot of activity,” he says.

Grantz sold the former Popeye’s restaurant on Mahoning Avenue and the new owner is working on plans to put the property to a new use. He has also completed office leases for properties along the corridor, and is “pleasantly surprised” at the number of calls he has taken about the former Rachel’s restaurant on the corridor just west of Meridian Road.

Alan Friedkin, broker and owner at Friedkin Realty in Liberty Township, has five acres in the township next to the Arby’s restaurant on Mahoning and says he wishes he had more.

“We’re working with someone now but things have to happen,” Friedkin says. “Hopefully we’ll know something relatively soon.” He also notes interest is particularly strong on the western side of Mahoning past Route 11, toward state Route 46.

“There seems to be a lot of interest in Mahoning Avenue,” Crivelli confirms.

The township recently enacted a zone change to accommodate Lidl US LLC, a subsidiary of the supermarket chain based in Germany. The 35,962-square-foot grocery store is going in at the intersection of Mahoning and Wilcox Road.

Also in the township, Nordson Xaloy Inc. is consolidating the operations of its sites in Youngstown, New Castle, Pa. and Pulaski, Va., into one plant in the former Tamarkin Warehouse on Victoria Road.

“Austintown is growing on its own merits, based on population and traffic,” says Bill Kutlick, broker and owner of Kutlick Realty LLC. Because of its access to Interstate 80 and state Route 11, the township is “more accessible than any shopping district,” he points out.

Kutlick minimizes the location of the Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course racino, on the Route 46 corridor, as a factor in encouraging development.

Meijer and Lidl are “probably the two main draws” in the township, Kutlick says. The projects will “reshape the Austintown market a bit” to make it more competitive with Boardman and the Eastwood Mall area in Trumbull County. But retailers still will likely focus on those two areas for their primary openings before coming to Austintown, he observes.

“There are people looking at Austintown,” Kutlick says. “They hear Meijer or Lidl are coming and they pay a little more attention to that market.”

Also on the corridor, Cocca Development recently demolished the former Mike’s Lounge plaza, 5532 Mahoning Ave., to replace it with the 8,400-square-foot C-Square commercial plaza. In addition to an anchor tenant that will occupy the middle, Kay Jewelers and a cellphone company will occupy spaces in the building, Crivelli says.

The zoning inspector declined to speculate whether the Lidl and C-Square projects on the corridor came about because of Meijer. He also notes Petco is taking a portion of the former Sears Appliance and Hardware, where it is doing exterior remodeling.

Both the service stations at the intersection of Mahoning Avenue and Route 46 – Sheetz and BP – are undertaking upgrades, Crivelli says.

The township zoning board of appeals approved an updated conditional use permit that allows Sheetz to expand its store to 6,000 square feet. The building will adopt the company’s new standard design and relocate one set of pumps.

On the opposite corner, BP will “completely redevelop” its service station, he adds.

The township issued a zoning permit for the new Sheetz station at Route 46 and Clarkins Drive, Crivelli says, near Interstate 80 and on the site of a former Burger King and car wash being razed

“These older properties are being torn down and redeveloped because the location warrants a better use or a more efficient building,” Kutlick says.

Just south of that property, Home 2 Suites by Hilton, a four-story hotel with 87 suites, recently opened on Interstate Boulevard.

Elsewhere in the township, Kutlick Realty recently sold a shopping center on Javit Court out of receivership that was in “major disrepair.” The new owner installed a new roof and new mechanicals in the 16,000-square-foot space.

The Boardman real estate firm also marketed property next to the Pink Elephant lounge on Mahoning to an investor “waiting for something to happen” regarding Lidl or another project for development, Kutlick says.

In addition, Kutlick worked with Farmers National Bank to create an outparcel on excess land at its branch on Route 46. “Companies are getting more efficient. If there’s excess land that they don’t need, why hold onto it?” he asks. “Sell it and create some revenue out of it.”

One property that remains vacant is the former Speedway station on Route 46 just south of the Interstate 80 exchange.

Marketing such a property is easier if the existing building is demolished, Crivelli says. “If I were the property owner, I would demolish the building, even if I have no immediate interest in it to reduce the property tax I pay on it,” he says.

“There are site restraints on that parcel,” Kutlick adds. Those include the size of the property itself … and a retention wall on the backside, which makes redeveloping it “a little more complicated,” he says.

Pictured: Nathan Moderalli and Jim Francosky of Moderalli Excavating work to clear debris at the former Austintown Middle School, where Meijer plans to build a grocery store.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.