Local Developers Don't Support Any Big-Box Retail on Rothrock
Rosemont Commons owners Herb Newman and Robert Stark say Walmart can expand where it is now.
Herb Newman and Robert Stark, the owners of several area shopping plazas, finished out the week's testimony in the Copley v. Fairlawn Rothrock Road closure trial Friday afternoon.
Stark Enterprises, Newman and Stark's company, own West Market Plaza in Bath (Mustard Seed Market), Shops of Fairlawn in Fairlawn (Pier 1 Imports), Rosemont Commons in Fairlawn (Walmart), Lowe's Home Improvement in Bath and the Starbucks plaza, which is considered Bath.
Stark Enterprises also developed Rosemont Ridge, the Enclave and the Rosemont Country Club.In all, they own about 1 million square feet in property. They do not own property in Copley.
Jacob Pollock's attorney Jordan Berns called Newman to the stand first and asked if Newman would agree that he and Stark oppose Walmart and Sam's Club's relocation.
"No, I don't agree," Newman said. "Nobody likes to lose tenants, however, that is the nature of our business. We are opposed to a lot that's going on, but not them moving."
Both Newman and Stark said it's not Walmart and Sam's Club they oppose: it's any big-box retailer that moves onto that land without improving the infrastructure first.
"The traffic from Walmart will decimate the area and create a calamity and affect our million square feet. That's what we care about," Newman said. "Walmart can't move to a back-water, two-lane road and decimate the traffic on Cleveland-Massillon Road so we can't re-tenant our space."
Newman and Stark are concerned a Walmart complex, or any big-box retailer, on Rothrock will bring more traffic to the northbound Cleveland-Massillon Road exit of Interstate 77 and make it hard to find new tenants for the current Sam's Club and Walmart buildings.
They are also concerned about the effect a Walmart anchored on Rothrock will make other retailers want to move there too to be in the same plaza.
"Retailers want to be with other retailers," Newman said. "That's why Circuit City never made it up at Target because everyone else selling appliances was on Rothrock Road."
Newman added, "When we built the Shops of Fairlawn in '92, we widened West Market to seven lanes from Smith Road to Cleveland-Massillon Road. We spent $2.4 million to do that. That today, 20 years later, is the equivalant of $12.5 million. We did that to improve the infrastructure."
Newman said Stark Enterprises has told Walmart officials that Rosemont Commons could accomodate a company expansion and would do whatever was necessary to help them decide to stay in the area.
Stark called Copley Township "money-grubbing carpetbaggers," because they only reason they want Walmart to move to Rothrock is for the money.
Copley Township Irv Sugerman asked Stark if he had any evidence that Copley Township offered any incentives for Walmart to move. Stark said no, and Township Trustee Helen Humphrys testified earlier in the week that they hadn't.
"I presume (Copley) would keep all the money for themselves," Stark said. "Copley is a money-grubbing entity that keeps all the money for themselves without caring what they do to those around them."
Stark admitted to saying he would go to war with Copley Township and do everything he could to stop the relocation from happening.
"The topic (at meetings Stark had with Mayor Roth) was traffic and the misdeeds of Copley, the disregard for the city around it and that it was a hit and run play on their part to make money," Stark said. "They would disrupt and destroy the quality of life for the residents there and diminish the value of our properties."
The trial will take a break and continue at 9 a.m. on June 15.