November 23, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
53°F
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Decrepit strip mall coming down

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — The old Ridgeville Shopping Center, long devoid of any tenants, is bustling with activity again.
But now the commotion is a wrecking ball.

A demolition crew finally got to work Tuesday tearing down the vacant shopping center, which exists as only a shell of its former self.

CHUCK HUMEL / CHRONICLE
Demolition is under way on the old Ridgeville Shopping Center on Center Ridge Road.

The only indicators that show it was once a retail hub are the few storefront signs that cling to the deteriorating facade.
“Everything is going except for the bowling alley and the empty building behind it,” Mayor Dave Gillock said. “Once it is done, it will be a great improvement for the city because this has long been a major eyesore for the area.”

While property owners Dave and Tony DiBenedetto have vowed to keep the activity going, Gillock said no concrete plans have been submitted to the city.

The only thing visible that the DiBenedettos have done since buying the property more than two years ago is renaming the 460,000-square-foot project the North Ridgeville Town Center.

“This place has the potential for being one of the largest shopping areas in Lorain County on par with the likes of Westlake’s Crocker Park,” Gillock said. “I would like to see some nice regional or national brand restaurants and shops move into the area, so residents have a place to go that’s in their own backyard.”

Tony DiBenedetto said future development will be along those lines. He was tight-lipped with details, but said a positive change will come to the area.

“This is a monumental occasion for the city and for us,” DiBenedetto said. “Our hope is to turn the location into a major retail center that will keep North Ridgeville residents shopping in North Ridgeville.”

DiBenedetto said he is in talks with some businesses, but would have nothing to report until a major anchor tenant — hopefully a grocery store — can be secured. He would also like to see small retail stores, entertainment and restaurants, he said.

Still, those who have watched the shopping center deteriorate are just happy something is happening.

“Well, I guess hell has frozen over,” said John Juszkiewicz, owner of Patriot Automotive located just across the street.  Juskiewicz looked out the window of his business with amazement at the work taking place.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I moved into this place four years ago with the thought that the city was going to do big things with that shopping center, but nothing ever happened. I’m amazed to see the work has finally started.”

At this point, Juszkiewicz said he would take just about any kind of redevelopment.

“I don’t care what goes in there. Some restaurants or shops where my customers can go would be nice,” he said. “I just want the area to look less dead. It wasn’t a bad place back in the day.”

Gillock said the shopping center began losing tenants two decades ago.

Those who once ran their businesses from the shopping center remember its heyday.

The Yellow Barrel of Magic, now at 506 Cleveland St., Elyria, was the last tenant to move out of the shopping center more than two years ago. Shop owner Beverly Dennerll said it was a good location, although the decline of the shopping center was evident for years.

“Businesses came and went, but no one stuck it out like us,” she said. “We really made a name for ourselves out there. People still go out there thinking we are still there.”

Besides the well-known costume and magic shop, the old Ridgeville Shopping Center was once home to a movie theater, Chinese restaurant, grocery store and electronics store.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.