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Geauga Lake land master plan likely to be finished in October

by BOB GAETJENS | REPORTER Published: August 31, 2016 1:00 AM
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Aurora / Bainbridge -- By the end of October, Cedar Fair should have in its hands a document that could help find a buyer for the 650 acres it owns surrounding Geauga Lake.°

According to Jennifer Syx of inSITE Advisory Group, that's when work likely will be done on a master plan for the area. She said she's working on the plan with Cedar Fair on behalf of the city and township.

Most of the land has been empty since 2007 when Geauga Lake was closed. The remainder will be unused after Wildwater Kingdom shuts down Sept. 5.

Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said the involved entities hope to present a shared vision for the area and help market it.

"This is not an official 'master plan,' but an effort to develop consensus among Bainbridge, Aurora and Cedar Fair to assist Cedar Fair as it markets the property," she explained.

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Both communities have zoned the land for mixed-use development, and Womer Benjamin said the communities generally agree on their vision for the area.

Bainbridge Trustee Jeff Markley said there will be no "big box" stores in the development, other than a possible Meijer store, which is planned for the former Geauga Lake Park main parking lot.

He said he would like to see a medical facility, similar to ones University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic have recently developed in nearby areas.

"The question is whether there's still room for another one or not," he said.°

In the new development, Syx said both Bainbridge and Aurora would like to see a recognition of the area's heritage as an amusement park, a history that dates to the late 1800s.

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"We really want to be able to pay homage to what was Geauga Lake," she said. "And it's important to both communities to provide public access to the lake."

MARKLEY, Syx and Womer Benjamin have all mentioned the possibility of a movie studio moving in, which Markley said could take advantage of the same tax breaks offered when movies were filmed in Cleveland in recent years.

Syx called the movie studio a potential "game changer" for the communities.

"Obviously, they'd like to take advantage of the water to do some of the filming," she said. "They've given us a rough estimate -- the studio could bring 1,000 jobs, plus or minus. It's a fantastic economic stimulus for both communities."

Markley also said he hopes for a tech campus or some other high-end office use in the development.

Womer Benjamin and Syx both said the commercial heart of the plan would include a walkable main street area with living quarters above street-level shops and professional offices.

"We anticipate a 'main street' type of area -- particularly along Route 43 -- with retail and commercial establishments, sidewalks and residential mixed in," said Womer Benjamin.

"Other areas might be mostly residential.°I'd like to see a hotel and park near the lake. A movie studio, educational or medical facility might be set further back from Route 43."

Syx said Aurora is considering large-lot residential development, and Bainbridge is considering smaller lots, featuring shared parking, limited curb cuts and shared stormwater systems.°

Some residential is necessary to support the shops, she explained.°

"We know this is not Crocker Park," she said. "It's not right off the expressway, so we have to create demand," she said.

Markley said neither community wants additional assisted living facilities. "Both Bainbridge and Aurora have a lot of those already," he noted.

Creating the plan is not the same as creating the development, and, while City Council member Jim Vaca hopes development will come quickly, he said he thinks the city will have to wait a while.°

"I like the concept," he said. "I think it's excellent. I think it's iffy to happen soon."

He said there are similar developments all around, including one planned for Orange Village.

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4188

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