The Ohio Planner’s News
By Patrice Theken, AICP
An exciting public–private initiative is underway in Medina County. The Board of Medina County Commissioners have joined with the University of Akron and the Medina County Port Authority to create the Medina County University Technology Park in Lafayette Township. The university intends to construct a 100,000 square foot branch campus, a 35,000 square foot portion of which is scheduled to open in 2007. The campus will serve the educational and training needs of area residents and businesses alike. The technology park will be the home to a variety of technology research and development facilities.
To differentiate the property from other industrial or commercial districts, and to meet the unique goals of the facility, the Medina County Commissioners, the Medina County Economic Development Corporation, the Department of Planning Services and the Lafayette trustees and Zoning Commission members, worked together on zoning text to create what is now known as the Medina County University Technology Park Planned Unit Development District (TPD). The district text gave Lafayette Township control over the types of businesses that would be permitted, such as research and development offices, corporate headquarters and professional office activities, but also allowed for some flexibility. At the same time the text and map were being considered by the Zoning Commission and Trustees, the preliminary plan and final plan for the subdivision was designed, and approved through the Medina County Planning Commission.
An important part of the planning process that would give the project a stable foundation was proactive public-participation activities, opening important channels of communication. The public was invited to contribute their ideas and concerns during the text amendment work sessions. News of the whole process, including controversial park entrance “arches”, was provided via the Medina County Commissioners’ website where an opportunity for feedback was offered, and officials met one-on-one and in “coffee klatches” with residents to answer questions and obtain opinions.
Prior to consideration of a text and map amendment, and designing the project site, much work went into initial discussions to bring the project to fruition. In 2001, the Medina County University Center Taskforce focused on the challenge of bringing a university presence to the county. Formally partnered with the University of Akron, the taskforce actively engaged Congress and the Ohio Legislature for support. The response was very positive. Congressman Ralph Regula provided critical support from the federal government. To date, $2.25 million have been embarked by Congress for the University Center.
On the state level, Representative Chuck Calvert, along with the solid support and backing of Senator Ron Amstutz and Representative Bob Gibbs, provided great leadership and encouragement in Columbus. Even with tight budget conditions in Columbus over the past two years, local elected officials stepped up and allocated $ 2.1 million to the project. The continued support and guidance of these elected officials is vital to the successful completion of the project. The private sector has expressed solid support for the project as well. To date, nearly $1.3 million has been pledged by businesses and individuals alike. This fund-raising drive was kicked off by a cornerstone pledge of $500,000 from the Westfield Group.
The backing of Medina County Commissioners was crucial. In fact, the parcel that will be “home” to the University Center is a 50-acre tract owned by the County. The land was deeded over to the University of Akron as a gift in late 2004. In addition, the county is taking a proactive and aggressive position by marketing the technology park on adjacent property. The land that will comprise the technology park is owned by Medina County and will be deeded to the Medina County Port Authority in 2005. The Port Authority will be responsible for developing and marketing the property.
A major step forward came with the announcement of two infrastructure grants from the State of Ohio. In September, 2004, the Ohio Department of Development announced the award of a $1 million grant through the 2004 Research Park Roadwork Infrastructure Assistance Fund. Part of Governor Bob Taft’s Third Frontier Project, this grant will be used to help offset the cost of the roadways in technology park. In addition, the county was also awarded a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant for water and sewer installation. Groundbreaking for the roadways is expected to take place in the spring of 2005.
This is an important project for Medina County that will bring a comprehensive higher-education campus and a technology park providing great benefits for generation to come.
Medina County University Center
6300 Technology Lane, Medina, OH 44256
ph 330.721.2210 fax 330.721.2235