Solon officials want a new, state-of-the-art Giant Eagle at Solar Center.
The shopping center owners want to get it done too. So does Giant Eagle, which is operating an outdated store.
Despite the best intentions of all parties, the project has been in limbo since November 2009, when Solon voters created a new zoning district to accommodate the redevelopment.
Last month, the Solon City Council granted a third extension to the development agreement between the city and the development partners, comprised of Solar Center Ltd., Percap Realty Ltd., SOM-Solon Ltd. and Caplan-Perlick Ltd.
The agreement was extended until September, and would have expired in March without council action.
The long-awaited plan is to completely redo the Solar Center, located at the corner of SOM Center and Aurora roads. The centerpiece of the project will be a much larger and modern Giant Eagle store and an accompanying Get-Go gas station.
But the shopping center owners and Giant Eagle have not been able to come up with an agreement after years of negotiations. Meanwhile, city officials have anxiously awaited progress on an important project for the city's retail core.
But all that might be changing. Both city officials and the development partners have expressed optimism in recent weeks that a deal just maybe can get done.
One good sign was the shopping center owners recently hiring Visconsi Companies to manage the project, said Solon Planning Director Rob Frankland.
Frankland described it as "the most positive step" since the voters approved the rezoning in 2009.
"If any developer can do it, it's Visconsi," Frankland said.
Simon Caplan, one of the shopping center partners, said things are "looking better and better every day" for the project.
Caplan said that the economic recession and the near impossibility of securing financing led to the delay.
"The economic situation in the country made many development projects not happen," he said. "Money is now easier to get and more available."
Giant Eagle also said the company remains engaged with the expansion.
"Giant Eagle is committed to moving the project forward and is working with the developer and landlord to do so," said Giant Eagle spokeswoman Paula DePasquale.
The Solar Center project is important to Solon for a number of reasons.
For starters, the Giant Eagle is old and outdated, and many residents shop elsewhere. Also, redevelopment of the Solar Center is key to the city's master plan, which identified rehabbing the city's core shopping centers as one of the most effective ways to jumpstart redevelopment and economic activities along the city's main corridor.
Mayor Susan Drucker, in an earlier interview with Solon Patch, said that making progress on redeveloping the city's shopping centers is one of her priorities in 2011.
"The difficulty is that banks aren't lending, and right now it's difficult economic times," Drucker said. "But for businesses to come in and restaurants to move in, they want a new place. They don't want to move into a 1970s-built shopping center."