COLUMBIANA, Ohio – Development in and around Firestone Farms in Columbiana is creating a second business district for this growing city and enhancing its image as a hub for leisure activity and upscale living.
Just as important, it’s ensuring future population growth while preserving the city’s past as the home of Harvey S. Firestone, the entrepreneur who founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. in 1900.
A $10 million project is in the works that will double the size of Firestone Farms TownCentre. Dubbed Phase 2, it will add to the restaurants and office space of the existing building, which features a courtyard for festivals and events.
The project lies near the intersection of state Routes 7 and 14 on land that will soon also see construction of a 60,000 square foot, three-story building by Salem Regional Medical Center, which recently purchased the parcel. The hospital system opened an immediate care facility in TownCentre this summer.
In the future, Phase 3 of TownCentre will add even more retail and office space.
The Mackall family is the owner and developer of Firestone Farms and TownCentre. The land includes a residential community with between 200 and 300 houses that range in price from $400,000 to over $1 million. Jeremy Mackall, who is spearheading the TownCentre project, says a second phase of the residential community is planned that will increase the number of houses to about 500.
A success by all measures, the growth of TownCentre has energized once-sleepy Columbiana and is transforming it into a regional magnet for visitors.
“It already is,” Mackall says. “We get lot of people from outside Columbiana, a lot from Pennsylvania and the Boardman-Canfield area, especially for the concerts and events we had every Saturday night in the summer. We’ve been doing it for several years and we still get people who’ve never been here before.”
Other draws include downtown, with its antique and specialty shops; Birdfish Brewing Co.; and the Shaker Woods festival grounds.
“We complement them,” Mackall says.
Firestone Farms TownCentre is the Mackall family’s first foray into land development – and likely its last.
“We never considered ourselves developers,” Mackall says. “We liked this property because of where it’s at. Because of Columbiana. When we’re done, we’re not going to develop something else.”
Mackall is unsure when construction of the TownCentre phase 2 building will begin.
“The cost of materials and building is a consideration,” he says. “Right now is not the best time to build. We will assess when we want to start. I doubt we will start in 2022, and once we do it will be a year and a half of construction.”
The Mackalls purchased the 800-plus acre Firestone Farms development in 2009 after the previous owner defaulted on a loan he had secured to build houses and the Links at Firestone Farms golf course.
“When we bought it, there were 50 lots left,” Mackall says. “Now there are two, and when they’re gone we’ll develop more. This is only half of it.”
Mackall admits there was uncertainty when his family first purchased Firestone Farms.
“It was kind of scary but now, with the other projects popping up around us, it verifies that we did the right thing,” he says.
The Mackall family has owned East Fairfield Coal Co., a mining company headquartered in North Lima, since 1934. It phased out the mining of coal in the 1990s and now focuses on limestone.
The Firestone Farms area has attracted the attention of developer Nick DeMaiolo, owner of Milo Land Co. of North Lima. He already owned several acres of vacant land along Route 7 and has begun developing them.
A 7,000-square-foot retail plaza is already open. Another office-retail building is under construction just north of it along Route 7, next to the Mercy Health facility and construction will begin in the spring on a second building on the same property.
DeMaiolo says a third building will also be built next year at the rear of the property, on Town Centre Avenue.
Milo Land has specialized in developing medical facilities, including the Mercy Health building on Route 7, and other properties in Salem and North Lima. The developer also owns an office building in Salem and has a portfolio of apartments in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties.
Owning land along the Route 7 corridor has proven to be a plus for DeMaiolo.
“I’ve been fortunate to be neighbors with the Mackalls,” he says. “We had some discussion when they started their development. They wanted to create a hub for the community to gather for events, and they’ve achieved that. I wanted to do something in the same mode, to complement what they have going on. We have a good relationship.”
DeMaiolo praises Columbiana city officials.
“They have been very pro-business and pro-development,” he says. “It’s becoming a very desirable place to do business or move to. I live in the Firestone Farms development, and it’s exciting to be part of it in a small way. There is not a lot of community development going on in Youngstown as compared to other places, so it’s exciting to see this new development of business and housing.”
Lance Willard, city manager of Columbiana, is glad to have developers such as the Mackalls and DeMaiolo. The city, he points out, is one of the few in the area to show a gain in population in the census results released this summer. The population was 6,299 at the last count and picked up about 120.
Most of the new residential and commercial construction in the city in recent years has taken advantage of the state’s Community Reinvestment Area tax abatement program, which reduces or eliminates real estate tax for up to 15 years.
This includes Phase 2 of Firestone Farms TownCentre, which gained the unanimous approval of the Columbiana school board and City Council this summer.
“These developments got tax abatements but they improve the quality of life here and make it ever more desirable,” Willard says. “The school board knows it and has never voted against an abatement.”
Willard says doubling the size of TownCentre is significant but the impact the project has on ensuring the growth of the city is even more important.
“Come to Columbiana, enjoy free concerts with the family, places to eat, know that the Mackalls are keeping the history of Harvey Firestone alive,” he says. “It’s not a development that doesn’t care about that.
“The Mackalls are doing a great job. They are investing in the city for us and we really appreciate that. It’s going to bring more economic development.”
Willard says that Mahoning County investors and developers are also starting to show interest in the city.
Firestone Farms TownCentre has taken every effort to embrace its namesake. A replica of the Firestone family house at TownCentre serves as a backdrop for events at the courtyard.
The replica of the brick house that was once just south of the property on the other side of state Route 14, is eye-catching for another reason: it is only half a house, sliced off along the roof ridge.
The actual 1828 house, the boyhood home of Harvey Firestone, was dismantled and moved to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich., in the 1980s, where it is an attraction operated by the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.
“Every day, people wonder why we built a half house,” Mackall says, explaining that its purpose will become clearer in the future.
Behind the half-house replica is the future site of Phase 3 of TownCentre. The half house will be incorporated into the new building as an entrance way or architectural feature.
The Phase 3 building will be a long structure that will likely be a mix of retail and office space.
Phase 2 of TownCentre will differ from the current building in that it will have two floors. The dominant feature will be a second floor restaurant with a rooftop seating area.
The remainder of the second floor will be a handful of apartments that will be available to rent, most likely on a daily basis but possibly for long-term leases, Mackall says.
The apartments are in keeping with the evolution of the development into a tourism destination, including golf weekends.
“We’re also building apartments across Route 14,” Mackall says.
He’s referring to a related development on the site of the Firestone homestead in which replica homes of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison are being built. While the exteriors will be in authentic period architecture, the interiors will be modern living spaces that can also be rented.
The houses are under construction. They sit adjacent to the future home of Ill Will Brewing Co., a brewpub that will open Oct. 15 in the former Firestone homestead barn. (See story page 32..
Ford and Edison were friends of Firestone who often visited him in Columbiana, Mackall says.
“Since we have the Firestone [home replica], we thought we’d do the same with Ford and Edison,” he says.
COLUMBIANA TAX ABATEMENTS
The city of Columbiana has issued the following tax abatements under the state’s Community Reinvestment Area guidelines, which began in 2018:
- Firestone Farms TownCentre, $10 million, 75 jobs, 100% for 15 years, 2021.
- CM6 (small factory), $1.27 million, four jobs, 75% for 10 years, 2021.
- CM6, $1.185 million, four jobs, 75% for 10 years, 2019.
- Wardle Enterprises (sports complex), $2.3 million, four jobs, 90% for 15 years, 2021.
- Milo/Bobcat (office, retail on Route 7) $3 million, 57 jobs, 100% for five years and 75% for 10 years, 2021.
- A Plus Powder Coating, $500,000, four jobs (33 retained jobs), 75% for 10 years, 2021.
- Cindlee/Yesco (electrical supplies), $450,000, zero jobs (20 retained jobs), 75% for 15 years, 2021.
- ABL Wholesale (convenience store supplier), $3 million, 83 jobs, 100% for 15 years, 2020.
- R&L (trucking), $20 million, 60 jobs (356 retained jobs), 100% over 15 years, 2020.
- C. Tucker Cope (pre-engineered building manufacturer), $770,000, one job, 100% over 15 years, 2020.
- KDC (housing property management and development), $4.8 million, zero jobs, 50% over 12 years, 2019.
- About 75 new residential addresses were added in 2019, with a 100% abatement for 15 years.
- About 65 new residential addresses were added in 2020, with a 100% abatement for 15 years.
Pictured at top: Jeremy Mackall, TownCentre developer, and Lance Willard, city manager, stand in the courtyard.