Business seems to be booming in Oregon.
Mayor Mike Seferian said economic development in the city in the past year has been brisk.
“We have the most industrial investment going on of any community in Ohio,” he said.
Seferian, who was on council for years before he became mayor, said it’s been a while since he’s seen so much interest in Oregon.
Construction and renovation of commercial buildings on Navarre Avenue, in particular, has been ongoing for the last several months, he said.
“Back years ago, when there was a building boom in the 1980s, there was a lot of development on Navarre. We haven’t seen that in a while. But, after coming out of some of the hardest economic times we’ve seen around here, there have been a lot of good things happening. We especially have a lot of retail development on Navarre Avenue.”
A small strip mall under construction on Navarre, next to Mattress Firm, will include Biggby Coffee, Penn Station East Coast Subs, and Happy’s Pizza when it’s completed, said Seferian.
“It’s well underway,” he said.
Plans also call for Tireman, which operated for years at the Woodville Mall in Northwood, to move to the site where the Bartz Viviano Flowers and Gifts shop is located on Navarre, according to Seferian.
“They cannot renovate that building, so Tireman plans to tear it down and build their own store on that property,” he said. “I believe Bartz Viviano is going to stay in business. I don’t know if they have settled on a location.”
The former Bay Center Recreation Bowling Alley building is being renovated into a five bay shopping center. The Dollar Tree is among the stores leasing space there, said Seferian.
“The entire building has been totally gutted. It looks like a brand new structure, that’s how much work they’ve done on it. The only thing that stayed up was the exterior walls,” he said.
The former Penske auto service shop just north of the Kmart store on Navarre is being renovated for a Hercules Tire franchise, and a vacant building next door where Fifth Third Bank was once located will be the site of a car rental company.
A building that used to house the Oregon Economic Development Foundation on Navarre will be developed into a gas station/carryout, said Seferian. A special use exception zoning designation is needed before the gas station goes in, he added.
Plans call for the construction of a large medical facility, on Navarre, just east of Walmart, said Seferian. He does not yet have enough information on the extent of the services that will be provided by the facility.
“There will be more than just offices. There will be medical procedures and treatments done there,” he said.
While he’s pleased by all the commercial development in the city, Seferian would like to see businesses lease some of the vacant buildings that have been available for the last several years.
“Vacant buildings are a stigma to cities. We have not had much luck with the former Pharm and Food Town stores. We certainly hope that a good fit comes to both of those places. [Administrator] Mike Beazley and I have similar theories on economic development. We don’t want to lure people here and beg someone to come. We know there’s risk in having something like that happen. If we begged a big store like Kohl’s, or Target, to come, and they fail, because maybe there’s not enough traffic, then I’d rather they not come because people may look at that and think, `Look, they didn’t make it, we don’t want to risk it, either.’ We want to make the city appealing to retail business and hope to make it attractive enough to have some kind of mercantile and fine dining establishments locate here.”
Seferian said the city has already made changes to become more “business friendly.”
“We used to have an image as a hard place for new businesses, and that the building and zoning code was not as user friendly as businesses would like. Whether it was true or not, we had that stigma. We’ve turned that around. We believe Jim Gilmore (the city’s commissioner of building and zoning) facilitates the permit process and makes businesses aware of what they will need for it happen fast. We have also refined our commercial sign code and made adjustments to bring it up to date. It seems to be something that was hard for people to understand. We tried to make it easier to understand and more up to date on what we allow for commercial signage. We have revisited our architectural standards and have allowed more options in our building code,” said Seferian.