Monday, January 20, 2003

City seeking to keep tenants

Forest Fair Mall relocations to be made simpler

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FOREST PARK - This city wants to help small business owners eking out a living amid Forest Fair Mall's larger, more well-known stores.

On Tuesday, council is expected to approve a resolution that would eliminate many - if not all - of the permit fees that up to 30 businesses would face if they relocate when the mall's new owners, Mills Corp. of Arlington, Va., begin major renovations.

Mills representatives would not detail the renovations but said that they could start next month.

Elected officials are worried that the businesses might close or move elsewhere when the mall finally begins improvements that could last several months.

Under the proposed resolution, administrators would help the businesses relocate along Hamilton Avenue, Winton Road and Northland Drive. Besides reducing paperwork and targeting properties for them, administrators said the resolution would protect the businesses from having to pay certain permit fees that generally accompany such moves.

"Anything I can do to help out, I'll support," Councilman David Lives said. "We're trying to be proactive."

Council's session Tuesday will begin at 8 p.m. in the Forest Park Administration Building, 1201 W. Kemper Road.

Brenda Beasley of Beasley Floral Garden is one of the affected business owners.

The council has already assured her that it would do what it could to help her move into the Northland Drive corridor.

"I think they're really trying to keep me in Forest Park," she said.

Paul Brehm, the city's economic development director, said administrators began working with the business owners in the fall.

"What we're doing is putting together a program that would help them cut through the red tape," he said. "We want them in the community. We want them to stay in Forest Park.

"Under this proposed program, we are going to make the process quicker, easier and less painful than anyone would otherwise imagine."

Mills paid $69.4 million to buy Forest Fair.

Dennis Connolly, the mall operator's vice president and senior development director, has promised improvements that will draw shoppers from Dayton, Indianapolis and Columbus.

The company has a trademark on the term "shoppertainment" and has put an ESPN X-Games Skatepark inside its suburban Atlanta mall and an ice-skating rink in a Grapevine, Texas, mall.


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