Given the conditions at Severance is anyone surprised by this news?
I’m sure not.
It’s easy to blame Oakwood Commons and South Euclid for the problems at Severance Town Center. Easy but not factual. As if moving Wal-Mart and opening four small stores at the mostly empty Oakwood killed a much larger shopping center that once boasted numerous large and medium sized tenants, not just the WalMart.
How easily Fran Mentch, Garry Kanter, and their minions forget that Borders went out of business depriving Severance of a large tenant which attracted desirable customers. How easily they forgot that Bally’s gym closed which drew people daily. Then Blockbusters. Those who worked out at Bally’s or went to Borders or Blockbuster often visited the other tenants there. How easily they forget that the Home Depot at Severance is by far the worst run Home Depot in an area with an already generous supply of hardware stores. How easily they forget that there was a superior Borders up the road at La Place, to say nothing of Barnes and Noble. How easily they forget the shooting at IHOP which was probably the final nail in Severance’s coffin. Yeah, it’s all because Wal-Mart moved. Sure.
It’s easy to say South Euclid and/or Mitchell Schneider “poached” Wal-Mart thereby killing Severance. Easy but not factual. Poaching? Think again. Poaching in business is defined as the practice of attracting workers from a rival company with better pay and conditions. It could also be defined as one city using tax incentives or other discounts to attract a nearby business. You want an example of poaching? Look how Beachwood poached Eaton Corporation from downtown Cleveland? That’s poaching. And the irony is, Eaton is not even an American company. It’s “officially” headquartered in Ireland to avoid paying US taxes! So to those who accuse South Euclid of poaching Wal-Mart I ask: what did South Euclid offer Wal-Mart? A property tax break? An income tax break? And to those who accuse Mitchell Schneider of poaching Wal-Mart I ask: What did Schneider offer Wal-Mart? Did he sell the Wal-Mart’s Oakwood parcel on the cheap?
The answers to all the above are a qualified NO. Qualified only because South Euclid’s property taxes have historically been lower than Cleveland Heights outrageously high property taxes. But guess what. Since that part of South Euclid falls under the Cleveland Heights University Heights school district Oakwood pays Height’s high taxes anyway! No wonder home owners in Cleveland Heights are leaving in droves.
Severance used to be a great place to shop but that was a long time ago. I remember being dragged there by my mother at back-to-school time in the 60s. By the 70s, I was going there on my own. I saw Star Wars multiple times at the theater there. But by the 80s I felt things were going downhill. Storefronts were starting to empty out and there was less foot traffic. Richmond Mall duplicated a lot of the stores that Severance had, so Severance lost traffic from easterly suburbs from Lyndhurst through Mayfield Heights. Randall Park Mall had been built and was a lot bigger with more variety so Severance lost traffic from Warrensville Heights and other southerly suburbs. Beachwood Mall with its more upscale stores probably siphoned off the higher end customers from all nearby areas. In the 90s I was disturbed by the clientele there. (For those of you about to call me a racist, it had nothing to do with race. When you see people walking around aimlessly, looking over their shoulders as if expecting or looking for trouble, you sense there’s danger.) I remember telling my kids “I don’t want you going to Severance anymore.” They rolled their eyes at me “Why?” Shortly thereafter there was a shooting in the food court and I told my kids “THAT’S why.” The old Severance was dead. Then it was buried. Then it was turned inside out and rebranded as Severance Town Center. I decided to give it a try. But I found most of the stores there were poorly run and duplicated elsewhere. I never saw a full parking lot at the new Severance except for Wal-Mart. But when I went there, I found the store in a messy state, with long lines and too many unmanned registers, and parents letting their kids run amuck assuming the parents were even there. I never revisited the store.
It says a lot about the priorities of Severance’s owners that they forked over thousands of dollars to the “citizens” for Oakwood but did nothing to improve their own property and make it more attractive. Did they ever make a good faith effort to attract new tenants? Doubt it.
The owners of Severance have collectively defecated on the good name of John Severance who did so much to build our city.
Severance Town Center is dead. If Fran Mentch still wants her beloved park here’s her golden opportunity. We’ll see if she puts her money where her very large mouth is. I’m not holding my breath.