CANFIELD, Ohio – Government officials in Canfield – the city and the township – are optimistic about growth prospects for their communities and the collaboration that’s been achieved.
Still, economic development in a bustling “great place” like Canfield “isn’t as easy as it sounds,” says Mayor Don Dragish, who took office this year.
The city started its comprehensive planning process in 2019 under the previous mayor, but the process was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year council adopted the 180-page plan, which outlines several initiatives for the next decade, and the city recently conducted strategic planning work sessions to set goals and objectives for the next three to five years.
“One of the biggest things done during the comprehensive planning process was the reinvigoration of our community improvement corporation,” which was launched during the 1970s to promote industrial development, City Manager Wade Calhoun says.
The CIC is being used to acquire and sell properties, encourage investment, and promote development, he says. The long-term vision is to follow the lead of more established CICs and offer business incentives such as grants, assistance with startup costs and incubator-type services.
The CIC also can make improvements to public spaces and undertake beautification projects. “The sky’s the limit,” Calhoun says.
Objectives include issues that have been discussed in the past, including development of the Redgate Farm property that Canfield purchased nearly two decades ago and recently annexed into the city. Other initiatives include trying to create a more walkable and bikeable community and creating an overall vision for transportation.
“We’re trying to initiate a Canfield bike loop so people can come off the bike path, get to the village green, get to the park, get to the schools and literally use the bike path almost like a highway,” Calhoun says.
The city also hopes to secure funding through Eastgate Regional Council of Governments to address traffic congestion near state Route 11 and the Giant Eagle plaza.
To attract business, the city recently converted several properties from residential to residential-office, Dragish says. “We took care of the property first so that we can make sure that they’d have a place or a home that they can utilize,” he says.
Dragish, who brings a marketing background to his role, “knows how to really appeal to and find those people and bring them into the city,” Calhoun says.
Beyond downtown, there are sites that have been purchased that Dragish expects to be developed. “I believe by fall you will hear something, some nice big news,” he says.
The village green in downtown Canfield, a center of activity for the community, is poised for redevelopment of its distinctive historic gazebo.
The gazebo is a project of the Rotary Club of Canfield, which has raised $180,000 of the estimated $250,000 cost, reports Anthony Nacarato, project chairman. The club is awaiting approval from the Ohio Department of Transportation for demolition and building plans before moving forward with the project, he says.
“We do expect it to be coming soon. We’ve submitted all the paperwork,” he says.
The club originally had looked into refurbishing the existing gazebo but the amount of rot and “unknowns” put the price tag nearly as high as building new, according to Nacarato. The new gazebo will be larger than the existing one and will feature an updated public address system for the south end of the village green.
Through the comprehensive plan process, the city received stakeholder feedback that showed people want options such as a coffee shop or restaurant where they could have dinner “or somewhere to go and listen to live music on a Friday or Saturday night,” Calhoun says.
There are about five undeveloped parcels on the green that could be developed as well as a few vacant or partially vacant buildings, but the properties aren’t being actively listed for sale. “We’re limited on how much we can actually incentivize and do things when we’re not controlling the property or the building,” he says.
While there aren’t many developable areas, in the downtown, one is the former IGA grocery store building, as well as an adjacent property, Dragish says.
“We’ve been talking with several different people. There are a couple different projects,” the mayor says. “Things don’t move as fast, especially during this time.”
In Canfield Township, CTW Development Corp., Boardman, is proposing a 50-room SpringHill Suites and a 50-room Towne Place Suites Extended Stay at the company’s Westford development, and an assisted/independent living facility with 129 rooms total, with underground parking for 95 vehicles, reports Trustee Chairman Brian Governor.
New businesses recently coming into the township include Farmers National Bank, Sport Clips and Queen Nails & Spa II in the retail plaza next to Starbucks and Chipotle, Governor says. Napa Grocery and Gourmet Market took the space occupied by Peaberry’s Café.
Papa Johns and Lake Erie Golf Carts East moved into the space formerly occupied by Something New Florist, adds Keith Rogers, township administrator and road superintendent.
While commercial construction is under way at Starr Centre Drive, residential construction remains “huge” in the township.
“We’ve led the county for years in home starts,” Governor says. So far this year, 23 permits have been issued for new houses for a combined value in excess of $5 million. “We have a very busy zoning department.”
Other developers are interested in different areas of the township, including a residential community for residents 55 and older near Mahoning County Career & Technical Center and several residential developments, Governor says. These include Abbey Road, Legacy Drive, Naffah Development’s Villas on Macy Lane and a high-end planned community in the Kensington area, the trustee adds.
The last lot recently was sold at the Summer Wind residential development, reports Traci Decapua, township zoning inspector.
The township also has been focused on road and water projects. “We had a pretty extensive paving program this past year,” totaling approximately $250,000, Governor says. The township is waiting to see how much it collects from a quarter-percent county sales tax that went into effect in January “so we can implement our plan next year,” he says.
One of the major water projects – done by the ABC Water and Stormwater District – was installing 700 feet of storm sewer to address sinking and other issues on Pebble Beach Drive. The township couldn’t do it because it was outside of the road right-of-way, Governor says.
“The residents were quite upset about that,” he says, “But now that’s all completed and they’re happy.”
One of the major initiatives in recent years is Red Gate, which the city annexed from Canfield Township and where the city has entered into a couple joint economic development district – or JEDD – agreements. The first, while Dragish was on city council, was formed for Windsor House at Canfield, and he reports the JEDD is running “very smoothly.”
The township issues building permits, handles zoning, provides road maintenance and policing for JEDDs, and collects property taxes, while the city provides utilities and collects income taxes.
“There was a lot of excitement in forming that JEDD. It’s performing at expectations if not a little bit more,” Calhoun says. “We’re right on where the projected numbers were going to be for income tax, and obviously they’re a water and sewer customer.”
A second JEDD was created at U.S. Route 224 and Palmyra Road for the Millennial Moments residential development, where infrastructure work is nearly completed. The developer, FJA Developers, was awaiting permits to begin construction, and was close to a deal in mid-July for a user for a commercial piece of the project.
“It’s really exciting to see Canfield grow west,” Calhoun says.
Photo by Jack Pearce, Wikipedia Commons.