Plans are underway to improve the city’s park and enhance connections in the community and beyond.
Parks are the lifeblood of a community, providing residents and visitors with opportunities to enhance their physical and mental health and well-being. Solon recognizes that and is in the process of updating its community park to make it a destination for people of all ages to gather.
“The outdoors does so much for you that you can’t get inside,” says Mayor Ed Kraus. “We want to provide that in a nice, beautiful setting with new amenities where the community can come together with friends and family and be out in the fresh air.”
With COVID-19 providing a reminder of the park’s importance to the community, Solon decided it was time to start thinking about some much-needed changes. Last year, the city began evaluating the status of the park and areas of improvement, as well as conducting surveys and focus groups to get the community’s feedback on potential changes. Now, the city is in the envisioning stage, creating a written plan for the park’s future.
“Coming out of the pandemic, we saw the park experience an uptick in usage — people trying to be outdoors and be active,” says Rich Parker, director of the parks and recreation department. “As much as the community values the park, it was looking a little tired. It’s time to give it some much needed attention.”
Parker says most of 2023 will be spent designing the new facets of the park, with a lot of the construction taking place in 2024.
“It’s about creating a park that we can all use,” Kraus adds. “Some cities have small neighborhood parks. What I like about having one main park is that it’s where you meet the community — it’s a destination for celebrating our diversity and including everyone.”
A NEW CONNECTION
The city also is working with the Cleveland Metroparks to install a trail that connects Solon to Chagrin Falls.
“This goes back to years ago when we developed Solon Connects to make the city more bikeable and walkable. We’re planning a city for the people,” Kraus says. “Originally, we were going to execute the Solon to Chagrin Falls trail ourselves, but we didn’t know how. So, we called the Metroparks, and they offered to install it for us.”By Rachel Hagenbaugh
In partnership with the city of Solon, the Metroparks plans to break ground on the project this year, once all engineering is complete and permitting is secured.
“The Solon to Chagrin Falls trail will provide a meaningful, all ages and abilities trail connection between the communities that has been desired for decades,” says Sean McDermott, chief planning and design officer for the Cleveland Metroparks. “Aside from the incredible mental and physical health benefits of being active outdoors, trails provide an alternative to using a vehicle for transportation, increase employee retention, increase property values and support connections among users and community members.”
The Metroparks also is pursuing the acquisition of more than 149 acres of Solon’s former Hawthorne Valley Country Club property, with plans to restore it as a natural, scenic area that will serve as a habitat for plants and wildlife, while providing public access. A large fishing pond on the property will offer anglers new fishing opportunities for bluegill and largemouth bass.
“The more park space you have, it really adds to the overall quality of life,” Kraus says. “That’s how communities should be measured — your green space and your park space. That’s for the environment, and that’s the best thing you can do for the community.”
The city’s vision for the park includes:
Playground enhancements with new, state-of-theart equipment and adaptive features
Tearing down the old barn and building a new facility with bathrooms and a concession area
Adding several pickleball courts
Installing turf to sports fields
Improving the parking lot
Workforce MOBILITYBy Jill Sell
Solon’s industrial parks are known for their attractive landscaping and well-manicured, vast areas of lawn. Traveling on a long driveway past these picturesque views is pleasant for those in vehicles, but employees who use public transit often find their bus stops too far from their company’s entrance, particularly during Northeast Ohio’s cold, dark winter months.
A new 18-month pilot program, RTA ConnectWorks, is a public/ private partnership between the City of Solon, Greater Cleveland RTA and SHARE Mobility, a technology company that solves complex transportation problems. RTA secured a $300,000 state grant to initiate the program. The Ohio Department of Transportation contributed to the funding. In place at the end of 2022, the program eliminates rider inconvenience and addresses more complicated issues of workforce mobility.
Major bus lines funnel into the Southgate Transit Center in Maple Heights. Now riders wishing to go to Solon can then board SHARE Mobility’s smaller, 14-passenger buses or vans that take them right to the door of their employer (and back) in one of the community’s industrial or retail areas.
Providing this last mile service helps Solon employers expand the areas from which they recruit and helps retain employees, according to Michael Martens, SHARE Mobility’s chief revenue officer. The opportunity also
helps with the problem of spatial mismatch — when jobs are located in one area, but hourly workers live in another. Public transport helps to reduce vehicle emissions, too, and can save a commuter time, money and aggravation, he says.
“Solon has been a suburb based on autos and highways,” says Maribeth Feke, RTA’s director of programing and planning. “Public transit isn’t usually something that is normally on the public’s radar screen, but Solon’s mayor and his administration have stepped up to the plate and have been very forward about getting transit amenities like shelters and moving routes. They are making sure their employees and residents have good access to transit.”
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Get the scoop on the city’s partnership with the Cuyahoga County Public Library to bring an innovation center to Solon in 2024. By
Plans are underway to expand the Solon Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) with an innovation center. With a focus on manufacturing and the trades, the space will provide an avenue for the city’s businesses to connect with the community and attract skilled workers.
“The city was looking to establish a maker’s space and small business incubator. We came to them as a possible partner, and they loved the idea,” says Tracy Strobel, CEO of the CCPL. “Libraries today emphasize lifelong learning and supporting people as they keep up with the changes around them, whether that’s changes in the skills they need to be successful in the workforce or be good consumers.”
The innovation center, slated to break ground this summer and open inRachel Hagenbaugh
spring 2024, will include machines capable of 3D printing, laser engraving, wide-format printing and embroidery, as well as laptops with the Adobe Creative Cloud suite and other software that will help people create prototypes and program machinery. Plans also include study and meeting rooms as well as space for companies to develop or showcase their products and available jobs.
“We have more than 900 companies in Solon, many of which need workers. We want to do our part to fill those jobs in the city. It not only helps the companies and workers, but it also makes Northeast Ohio a more vibrant place to live, work and play,” says Mayor Ed Kraus. “The business technology and focus on manufacturing is something that will serve us decades into the future and will help us continue to attract great talent.”
Excellence for EVERY STUDENT
Discover how Solon’s schools ensure student success.By Rachel Hagenbaugh
Meeting the needs of every student, every day — that’s the foundation for success at Solon Schools, which, for the seventh year, tested better than any other district in Ohio, according to the performance index component of the 2022 Ohio school report cards.
“It’s not just a measure of how well the district is performing, but how many kids are performing and at what level,” says Superintendent Fred Bolden.
Bolden attributes the district’s success to a variety of factors, including the pyramid of strategies, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of struggling students and creates personalized programs to ensure their success; a dedication to balancing academics, arts and athletics; and quality teachers and strong family support.
The district also prides itself on preparing students for life after graduation. That means presenting them with opportunities to discover their interests and explore various career opportunities.
“It’s not just about being book smart. It’s also about working and collaborating with people, and the only way to achieve that is through practice,” Bolden says.
Students have access to more than 60 clubs, some of which take trips to give them hands-on experiences. Prior to graduation, students participate in a senior project where they engage in on-site shadowing.
Tamara Strom, the district’s director of communications, says Solon Schools partners with a variety of industries, including manufacturing, health care and local universities, to provide learning opportunities.
“The No. 1 ranking goes beyond just the narrow definition of the academic No. 1,” Strom says. “From drama, band and show choir to athletics, speech and debate teams and much more, everybody works to put those supports in place so our kids can excel and be involved in so many things. That’s what that No. 1 ranking is all about — it’s all encompassing.”
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A Bright FUTURE
Kichler Lighting brightens up Solon. By Jill Sell
The City of Solon’s Grantwood Golf Course is going to be a little brighter this spring. When Kichler Lighting recently decided to move its local headquarters to Solon from Independence, it wanted to express its willingness to be a good corporate neighbor. The company develops indoor and outdoor decorative lighting fixtures, as well as ceiling fans, downlights, landscape lighting and more. The public golf course was a perfect benefactor.
“I try to run pretty lean at Grantwood to be efficient,” says Rich Parker, Solon’s parks and recreation director. “So, the opportunity to freshen up the place is appreciated. Kichler donated $25,623 worth of lighting and design services.”
Wall lanterns for the clubhouse, integrated low-energy LED lights and path lights are among the donated lighting.
Monique Spearing, Kichler marketing communications manager, says the move to Solon allowed the company to have modern office space, as well as an area for quality testing and certification. The company also wanted to relocate to a vibrant, convenient community with great amenities. In addition, the rise of remote and hybrid work options played a part in moving to the smaller 41,236-square-foot building.
Breaking NEW GROUND
Big changes are underway that will bring new housing, dining, green space and more to Solon.
The look and attitude of Solon’s downtown retail trade area is about to dramatically change — and for the better. The redevelopment of 8.5 acres along Aurora Road, a project expected to break ground this year, will bring housing, restaurants, shopping, lodging and all-important green gathering space to the area. Think shoppers relaxing in a parklike setting, meeting coworkers at a brewpub after work or enjoying an outdoor art show in the summer.
Angee Shaker, director of economic development for the city, calls the project “transformational” and “mind blowing.” And, while all aspects of the development are welcomed, the new housing (209 apartment homes in two separate buildings) particularly falls neatly into the city’s current plans.
“Our big economic projects in the next one to five years are focused on increasing the diversity of our housing stock,” Shaker says. “We have a wonderful mix of single-family homes and duplexes, from starter homes to houses for growing families to luxury homes, but we need more options for young workers and empty-nesters.”
THE DISTRICT IN SOLON
With a working title of The District in Solon, this major project is being led by RHM Real Estate Group and a team of experts put together by RHM’s founder and CEO John Joyce. The team includes SteveBy Jill Sell
Passov, Passov Real Estate Group; Bobby Krueger, Krueger Group; and Doug Leohr and Tim Courtad, Pride One Construction. In addition, Norr, an international architecture and engineering firm, has been chosen for the project.
Along with the apartment homes, 20,300 square feet of in-line and freestanding retail will be created. Also proposed is a 14,000-square-foot innovative food hall and an approximately 100-key high-end hotel.
“Most importantly, this project will have ample green space and gathering areas for residents and neighbors in its center,” says Joyce. “There will be a 1.5-acre, heavily landscaped boulevard entry with areas of seating. We’ll be able to do small concerts and different festivals, invite food trucks, maybe hold a farmers market. It will be a vibrant gathering place and a backyard for every resident in Solon.”
According to Shaker, the proposed project will be a game-changer for the City of Solon. “Most of the area is made up of a vacant car dealership and is an eyesore for the community. Soon, it will be a beautiful destination area,” she says.
In addition, the District’s proposed hotel, according to Spark Hotels President Amit Patel and company COO Bhavesh Lad, will be “an upscale, lifestyle hotel catering to corporate and leisure guests who come through Solon.” Hotel plans include ample meeting space, a fitness room, a bar and a
large, enhanced lobby area customized to reflect the tastes and needs of the Solon community.
“Solon is a spectacular community with beautiful homes, a wonderful group of elected officials, a top-notch school district and a close relationship between residents and business, but it lacked a central downtown area in the heart of the city,” Joyce says. “This project will change that and also be a catalyst for further economic development.”
HAWTHORNE GOLF ESTATES
It was an emotional day when the 90-year-old Hawthorne Valley Country Club closed permanently in 2018. Not only were longtime members saddened, but many Solon residents worried that a community green space would be lost forever.
But sometimes things just fall into place, like a hole in one. The creation of Hawthorne Golf Estates, with its proposed 102 attached single-family homes on 32 acres, will bring much desired 50-and-over housing to Solon. In addition, the purchase of an adjacent 149 acres by Cleveland Metroparks for its South Chagrin Reservation will ensure continued land preservation.
“This is a wonderful and unique opportunity for residents who have lived in the community for many years and who want to stay there. They want to move out of their houses into smaller homes that require less upkeep and have all the landscaping and groundwork taken care of,” says Larry Apple, project manager for Hawthorne Golf Estates. “They will have a brand-new house in a brand-new community. That’s hard to find in a city that is already built up.”
Homes will have at least 1,500 square feet of living space plus two-car garages. Most will have first floor primary bedrooms. Sales are expected to begin in fall 2023, with the first homes completed in 2024.
SOLON COMMUNITY LIVING
Solon Community Living is scheduled to break ground on a new project midyear that, when completed, will become an extraordinary residential community for adults with developmental disabilities and caregivers. The pocket neighborhood will consist of six homes with ADA-compliant suites for 14 people. Six caregiver suites will be available on second floors. In addition, there will be a clubhouse that will allow for socialization, a teaching kitchen, library/sensory area and outdoor terrace.
“With the pocket neighborhood concept, the homes all face the green, allowing for socialization and extra safety,” says Ara Bagdasarian, who, with his wife, Leslie, founded Solon Community Living, a nonprofit organization, in 2015 to create quality, accessible housing opportunities. “Our location is also very important,” he adds, noting that it’s walkable to the Solon Community Recreation Center, Solon Community Park, library and shopping. “As a community, Solon has many different amenities.”
WOMEN IN BusinessBy Rachel Hagenbaugh
TARA COLOPY THIRD ESTIMATE CORP.
Tara Colopy wants to break the stigma of a male-dominated trade industry. She’s leading by example as the majority owner of Third Estimate Corp., a roofing, siding, window and gutter company her husband, Steve, started in 1996.
“My daughters get to look up to me as a woman in business, and it gives me so much pride,” she says, adding that her staff is 90% female managed. “Having so many females in management and a female owner have given us the ability to have that touch — to make roofing sexy.”
She laughs, explaining that oftentimes, people view exterior home improvements as afterthoughts — a facet of the industry Colopy is determined to transform by transcending in-home sales to give people a destination to browse high-quality products and envision ways to create beautiful outdoor spaces.
“You design your bedroom and pick your wallpaper, carpet and furniture and make it a space that feels good,” she says. “Nothing should separate that from the exterior of the home. That’s where a homeowner’s pride starts.”
During the past year, Colopy is proud to say the company has experienced tremendous growth that allowed her to expand and move the company’s headquarters to Solon.
“We love the city of Solon and heard it was a very supportive business community,” she says. To give back to the city, Colopy provides lunch from a local restaurant to her employees every Thursday. “My husband and I are huge believers in keeping things local,” she says. thethirdestimate.com, Instagram: @the_third_estimate
LAURA ZAVADIL MEGA BARRE SOLON
As a former professional dancer, Laura Zavadil has always had a passion for movement. Seeking an alternative to traditional gym workouts, she discovered Pilates and barre.
“I was looking for something that was low impact and had the longevity for me to do it for a long time,” she says. “It’s a different type of workout that can resonate with people of all body types.”
Meet six entrepreneurs whose passions are enhancing the quality of life for those who live, work and play in Solon and beyond.Laura Zavadil
She started teaching classes to her friends and, in 2013, opened her first studio in Youngstown.
“People loved it,” she says, adding that when it came time to expand, she knew she’d find success in Solon. “I felt the community could benefit from these classes a lot. People in Solon value their health and dedicating time to exercising.”
Mega Barre Solon, which opened in September 2022, offers about 22 classes per week in barre, power yoga and circuit, as well as box step (modern day step aerobics) and bounce (featuring a mini trampoline). Classes can be modified for any age or fitness level.
“Movement is what matters most. It’s what gets our mood increased and endorphins going so we can live happier and healthier lifestyles, both personally and professionally,” she says. “It’s a special feeling to be able to be that change in people’s lives.”
megabarresolon.com, Instagram: @megabarresolon
BIANCA CUNNINGHAM HIGHBROW LLC
Bianca Cunningham comes from a family of entrepreneurs. Her grandfather, mother and sister have all owned their own companies. When Cunningham was in high school, she funded a college tour trip with money she raised selling various goods.
“I remember as a teenager going door to door selling balloons, chocolate, candy — whatever I could get my hands on — and people would buy it because of me, my personality and customer service,” she says. “Entrepreneurship is in my blood.”
With a passion for fashion, Cunningham’s first dream was to become a makeup artist for the stars. During cosmetology school, she discovered eyebrow waxing and fell in love with it.
“With the art of eyebrow waxing, it is so important to know what you’re doing. You need to have knowledge about facial structure, brow
hairs and the direction of growth and the correct shapes and skin types,” she says, noting it’s also important to consider what products someone is already using. “What I do can instantly change a person’s mood, and that is why I truly love what I do.”
Cunningham has been a licensed advanced esthetician for more than 25 years. In July 2022, she opened HighBrow LLC, a brow boutique, in Solon. Her business offers eyebrow, facial and underarm waxing, tinting, eyebrow lamination, lash lifts and two training classes. She also sells specialty items, including makeup and clothing.
“When I wanted to open my business, I knew I wanted to be in Solon. It’s just a beautiful place to be,” she says, adding that she loves being her own boss. “It’s a joy to be a great example for my kids and show them how to work hard toward your goals.”
highbrow216.glossgenius.com, Instagram: @highbrow_cle_
CHYANNE PERRY SPA LAVENDER
Chyanne Perry always knew she wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. She considered becoming a surgeon before realizing it would take too much time away from her family. Her mother, who had arthritis, suggested Perry consider becoming a massage therapist.
“The science aspect of it was very interesting to me,” she says. “Massage is very beneficial for stress relief, anxiety and muscular and neurological issues. It’s good for people who have a hard time calming down, as well as athletes and people who have issues sitting for long periods of time.”
Perry has been a massage therapist for 14 years. In 2016, she opened Spa Lavender in Solon and six years later, moved to a location in the city’s core.
“It’s been amazing having my business in Solon. The community is awesome,” she says. “They’re very supportive and resourceful.”
In addition to massages, Perry also offers facials, foot/back scrubs, waxing and eyelash extension services. Those looking for an extra dose of relaxation can add a lavender or CBD enhancement or hot stone treatment to their services. “Lavender is very unique and interesting — it’s been known to increase relaxation, help people who have cardiovascular issues, is a natural bug repellent, good for air quality and can help with a lot of skin conditions if used properly,” she says. spalavendermassage.com, Instagram: @spalavender440
TONJA HARVEY PROSTYLEZ HAIR & BARBER SALON
Everything beauty under one roof — that’s the goal of ProStylez Hair Salon, which Tonja Harvey opened in Solon in January 2020. From massage therapists, hair stylists and barbers to nail technicians, cosmetologists, estheticians and hair braiders, about 10 specialists rent space from Harvey.
“We’re trying to make it a one-stop shop for the entire family — men, women and children,” Harvey says. “Seeing customers come in one way and leaving a different way — refreshed with a new attitude — is extremely rewarding.”
Harvey, a licensed cosmetologist, trichologist and cranial prosthesis specialist, has been in business for more than 30 years and previously owned a business in Cleveland. It’s been a longtime dream of hers to open a business in Solon, where she’s lived for more than 25 years.
“I love how it’s thriving and multicultural and the diversity in the community,” she says.
In addition to renting space to herself and managing the business (which also includes a clothing and beauty supply boutique), Harvey runs an internship program that helps teach financial literacy, professional integrity and other techniques students don’t learn in cosmetology school.
“When students get out of school, they try to open a business with no experience working in the real world,” she says. “It looks easy, but it’s not. Through the internship program, we shift their mentality and teach them how to run a business professionally.” prostylehairsaloninc.com, Instagram: @ProstylezHybridSuites
VICTORIA KILPATRICK CORE ELITE WELLNESS FIT CRYO
At Core Elite Wellness Fit Cryo, it’s all about taking a proactive approach to caring for the body. That means keeping inflammation low, circulation high and cellular health functioning optimally.
When the business first opened, its primary focus was whole body cryotherapy, a technique that involves briefly exposing the body to subzero temperatures. “However, we now represent a full Med Spa, overseen by a medical director and staffed by a very qualified registered nurse,” says Victoria Kilpatrick, owner.
Core Elite Wellness Fit Cryo offers an entire range of services, including True whole body and targeted cryotherapy, red light therapy, infrared sauna, facials, medical peeling, Cryo T-shock, RF microneedling, CoolSculpting and FDA-approved EMSculpt/EMSculpt Neo. Additional treatments, such as IV infusions, IM injections and a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, are now considered standard.
“We fully embrace traditional medicine and will not hesitate to advise our clients to seek further guidance within the health care system,” Kilpatrick adds. “The trend toward personalized health has become
our primary focus, too.”
Solon has turned out to be a perfect location for the business, as well. “We love the East Side and what the area has to offer,” Kilpatrick says. “We just fell in love with Solon. It’s a very supportive community.” cryotherapyhealthcare.com, Instagram: @coreelitecryo