Cuyahoga Falls looks to spend millions, rehab old downtown mall

Posted at 7:10 PM, Nov 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-03 19:10:13-04

Front Street was once the center of a busy downtown Cuyahoga Falls. Now, not so much.

It's really a ghost town there, but for about $11 million dollars in taxpayer money, some things are changing.

"As it is right now, the businesses or business owners that are looking at space are probably seeing a zero traffic count," said Brent VanFossen.

VanFossen's popcorn shop is one of a small handful of businesses tucked into an empty, isolated Front Street in Downtown Cuyahoga Falls. Most days on the Front Street pedestrian mall are vacant. An amphitheater attracts concert goers in the summer and an ice skating rink attracts snowbirds in the winter.

But a major, multi-million dollar development is aiming to change that and bring a new face to an old downtown.

"We're working on the early stages to put the road back in," said Cuyahoga Falls' Mayor, Don Walters.

Walters knew Front Street when there was a road there instead of a pedestrian mall. It was a time when businesses filled every store front and people packed the sidewalks.

That's why he's happy, City Council unanimously signed off on an $11 million dollar investment that will put the road back in and will make major upgrades to store fronts.

"We're probably up in the $10-12 million range. It's not been finalized because we're still doing the design work now. There will be absolutely no increase to taxpayers, we'll be able to pay it with our own funds," said Walters.

Every dime will be paid for by the city and it will likely take years to pay off, but it's a debt some in Cuyahoga Falls are hoping is worth it.

"It's going to reinvigorate the downtown area that has a ton of potential," said VanFossen.

Plans for the project are still coming together. The groundbreaking is expected for May 2017 and the entire project likely won't be completed until summer of 2018.