Strongsville MAGAZINE 2022
CENTER of it ALL Get the scoop on plans for the city’s reimagined town center.
PLUS •S trongsville’s growing business community
• Residents making a difference
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STRONGSVILLE WE’RE CELEBRATING STRONGSVILLE
It’s no secret that local governments have faced serious challenges over the last few years. Through the diligence of our elected and appointed leaders, Strongsville has managed to maintain its AAA bond rating — the highest possible rating and a symbol of financial strength and stability — throughout the economic challenges. As communities everywhere struggled, we continued to create new jobs within our thriving business parks and are proud to boast the second-highest income tax collection of any suburb in Cuyahoga County.
We’ve also taken the first steps in a project that Strongsville will celebrate for years to come — our Town Center Enhancement and Walkability Initiative, which will bring exciting new amenities to the heart of town. Plans are currently being drawn for an interactive fountain/splash pad, a new playground that will be accessible to children of all ability levels, a community pavilion, a new park and also extensions of existing walkways like Freedom Trail to provide easier access to all the buildings and amenities in our Town Center district.
I’ve always been proud of the way our community of residents, civic groups and faith-based organizations rally together in challenging times. We’re thrilled to emerge from the storm stronger than ever and finding new and better ways to celebrate Strongsville.
COVER: KARIN MCKENNA
in a big way this year. Not only have we expanded our summer festivals to include more family fun, we’re bringing back our popular Strongsville Community Business Expo, which will showcase more than 100 local businesses at our recreation center Oct. 12.
Sincerely, Thomas P. Perciak Mayor
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PLAYING IT SAFE Strongsville’s safety services engage with and educate the community. By Jamie Brian
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Learning about safety at a young age leads to safer communities, too, and the police department helps educate children on best safety practices every June and July through Safety Town. Before starting kindergarten, Safety Town participants attend workshops on topics including bus safety, poison prevention and calling 911. Marie McManus, youth program coordinator, says parents have called to thank officers for teaching children how to dial 911 because they needed to call for medical help in real life. In addition, the city’s fire department educates youth through its Fire Academy for Kids program. Throughout the daylong program, children ride in a fire truck, learn how to use fire extinguishers and attempt a rescue from a mock apartment building. “The Fire Academy gives them a glimpse of what firefighters may be called upon to do,” says academy coordinator Matt Schenek, “and why firefighters do the things that they do.” This knowledge can be a key tool for prevention.
COURTESY STRONGSVILLE FIRE DEPARTMENT
he Strongsville police and fire departments are on a mission to maintain safety in Strongsville’s neighborhoods through community engagement. “In order for us to do what we do, the most important part is to have a foundation built on a bridge of trust with our city and the people who live here,” says Mark Fender, Strongsville police chief. When officers aren’t responding to calls, they are talking with community members and business owners to address any safety concerns before these concerns lead to crimes. The police department also has an active social media presence, which they use to encourage safe habits. Lt. Mike Campbell was looking for a new method to address theft from unlocked vehicles, so last October he began making clever memes reminding citizens to lock their car doors. The memes have
KEEPING KIDS SAFE
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The Silver Sneakers program makes fitness accessible and affordable for Strongsville seniors. By Jamie Brian
With their membership, seniors can access all amenities at the center, including cardio equipment, an indoor track and a lap pool. Group exercise classes, such as cycling, kickboxing and yoga, are available at member rates. Demand for the program grew because Strongsville residents longed to shorten their gym commutes. “There were some seniors who were going to other cities’ rec centers that participated in the Silver Sneakers program,” says Bryan Bogre,
parks, recreation and senior services director. Now, seniors can exercise closer to home. In addition to achieving their fitness goals, Silver Sneakers participants can find camaraderie at the center. “It’s a good thing for them to come up and meet new people, as well,” Bogre says. “It gets them out of the house and making new friends over and above just getting healthy in the sense of getting their physical activity going.”
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COURTESY STRONGSVILLE RECRE ATION CENTER
eniors can now lace up their sneakers, don their swim caps and press “start” on their fitness watches with the Strongsville Recreation Center’s Silver Sneakers program. The program, which launched last October, offers free recreation center membership for seniors ages 65 and up on select Medicare plans. Seniors interested in the program can check their eligibility, register for Silver Sneakers membership and print their ID cards at silversneakers.com. To activate their free rec center memberships, seniors simply bring their Silver Sneakers ID cards to the Strongsville Recreation Center and complete an application form. A Silver Sneakers membership unlocks a world of fitness possibilities.
TOWN CENTER A robust plan to enhance Town Center’s amenities, walkability, accessibility and connectivity will improve quality of life for residents and the business community. By Kristen Hampshire
“We’ve been studying Town Center for a long time to focus on ways to redevelop it,” acknowledges Brent Painter, director of economic development for Strongsville. Mayor Tom Perciak adds, “The Strongsville Town Center has been studied closely by my administration and the region’s planning professionals throughout the past decade. Each one of the studies has included public input and examined best practices from across the region.” The Strongsville Town Center Enhancement and Walkability Initiative will fulfill the primary goals of improving connectivity and pedestrian access. Perciak adds, “One of the most important goals of the project is to create a community gathering space for Strongsville families with amenities that enhance the quality of life within our community.”
CONNECTING THE COMMUNITY
Water features and play spaces were among the top priorities that residents
mentioned in the city’s 2021 community amenities survey. The Town Center project will include these attractions and much more. That includes a new community pavilion with a potential band shell, new ADA-compliant playground, splash pad, expanded green space, recreational areas and a community gathering space for civic events. As for accessibility and connectivity, the project involves upgrades and improvements to Town Center’s existing walkways and trails, including the Freedom Trail. Also, the city will complete the trailhead north of the Strongsville Recreation Center’s walkway to flow into the backyard preserve and hiking trails. Improved pedestrian safety will be accomplished with new connects in the staging area for food trucks, farmers markets and other events. Along with this comes wayfinding signage to better identify Town Center’s amenities.
COURTESY CITY OF STRONGSVILLE
t’s a central gathering space — where families go for homecoming festivities and fireworks, where baseball games, tennis matches and playground fun take place. It’s home of the food bank, safety town, library, historical society and recreation center. And importantly, the city’s heart and core is one of the busiest areas in Cuyahoga County. Already, $66 million in improvements to Town Center have elevated the 81.75-acre space at the intersection of State Route 82 and Pearl Road. For years, Strongsville has solicited residents and the business community, asking for ideas and input for how to improve the space. The groundwork began in 2009 and continued with the city’s master plan in 2019, followed by the Strongsville Wayfinding Analysis Report, a NOACA redevelopment plan and walkable community workshop report.
These Town Center priorities were identified in the four reports. For example, NOACA noted that traffic congestion and lack of safe crossings and sidewalks has prompted middle school students to be driven by their parents vs. walking a short distance. Recommendations included increasing pedestrian crossing times, painting high-visibility crosswalks and installing bicycle lanes on Royalton Road. The multi-million dollar project addresses these concerns. Plus, the threeway stop at Westwood, Zverina and Roe lanes will be transformed into a roundabout with new walkways and a parking lot next to the Strongsville Food Bank. “This is a true gathering place for the community, and the project will really benefit the quality of life for residents and local businesses,” Painter says.
“One of the most important goals of the project is to create a community gathering space for Strongsville families with amenities that enhance the quality of life within our community.” – TOM PERCIAK, MAYOR
ADVANCING THE ECONOMY
To help fund improvements, the city has sought grant assistance through programs from the federal, state and county governments, along with regional nonprofits that support community projects. The city is also accepting donations from civic groups and businesses. “We are working closely with our partners at Cuyahoga County and the State of Ohio to obtain grant funding that will help pay for the project,” Perciak says. “We have also created a fundraising committee, chaired by Mike Catan, that is working with local businesses and civic groups for project donations.” The city’s strong economic base supports large-scale projects like Town Center, Painter adds. “Economic development ties in closely with our Town Center initiative, because part of funding the project comes from income tax collection, and if we did not have the robust economic development base, we would not be able to afford significant redevelopment projects,” he says. “And having those projects supports economic development by creating a better quality of life that helps attract talent.”
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Here’s a look at the amenities and improvements that the Strongsville Town Center Enhancements and Walkability Initiative will include. INTERACTIVE FOUNTAIN AND SPLASH PAD: Numerous fountains to entertain the younger set will also be accessible and ADAcompliant. In winter, the space could be converted to an outdoor ice rink. COMMUNITY PAVILION AND MEETING SPACE: A comprehensive and covered pavilion area will serve residents and the business community, doubling as a comfortable outdoor space for meetings. PLAYGROUND: Roughly 12,350 square feet of new playground space will be ADAcompliant to accommodate all children who want to explore the amenities. GREEN SPACE: A central commons will accommodate food trucks, farmers markets, outdoor movies and other community events.
INVESTING IN PEOPLE, IDEAS & HOPE
TRAILS: Extending existing walkways like the Freedom Trail and completing a trailhead north of the Recreation & Senior Center walkway will provide better access to the Strongsville Backyard Preserve that features amphitheater seating. ROUNDABOUT: A three-way stop at Westwood, Zverina and Roe lanes will be transformed into a roundabout with new walkways and a parking lot next to the Strongsville Food Bank.
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EXTRAS: Outdoor recreation, including new pickleball courts and sand volleyball.
WE'RE IN BUSINESS The city’s growing and diverse business community supports outstanding amenities for residents. By Kristen Hampshire
COURTESY CITY OF STRONGSVILLE
hen Advanced Chemical Concepts was seeking a larger facility for its administrative offices, its leadership listened closely to employees, who sought an easy commute. Strongsville’s proximity to I-71 and the turnpike, breadth of housing options, great school system and range of restaurant and retail options made the city a sweet spot for the company, which is just one of the many businesses that moved into or expanded facilities in Strongsville. For Shawn Gaffney at Infinium Wall Systems, an ability to house a significant fabrication and machining space for building the company’s interior glass office wall and door systems was a big draw. “Plus, the working relationship with the economic development team, mayor and council has been so helpful,” says the company’s vice president of operations. With more than 700,000 square feet in leases secured so far in 2022, companies recognize the value of Strongsville. And their commitment as local employers drives tax revenues, which allows the city to offer services that set it apart. For example, Strongsville does not charge residents for garbage pickup, and the property tax rate as a percentage of market value is low compared to
most of the county, says Brent Painter, director of economic development. “The City of Strongsville is home to a diverse, growing business base,” adds Mayor Tom Perciak. “The men and women who run these companies create employment opportunities for local residents while generating revenue that is critical to the operations of the city and our school district.” And the city is an advocate for businesses, offering resources like a Workforce Resource Guide, Small Business Startup Guide and Corporate Relocation Guide.
WEATHERING THE STORM
Because the business community is diverse, it stayed strong amid the pandemic, unlike other cities that are more dependent on office tenants who moved to remote work environments. “Because of our business base around manufacturing, you need to be on location — and our retail base is growing,” Painter says. All aspects of business are growing in the city. Kim Smith, president of the Pipe Line Development Company (PLIDCO), moved the business to Strongsville and says the decision has made employees very happy. “Our building is bigger, it’s a safer facility for us, there’s more natural light and we have a great location with the turnpike and I-71,” she says.
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elebrating 75 years, Swagelok is a Strongsville community advocate — and its longtime talent and expanding workforce are a testament to the company’s success. The business started with a $500 loan from founder Fred A. Lennon’s wife’s uncle in 1947. Today, it’s a global manufacturing corporation that goes to market through more than 200 authorized sales and service centers in 70 countries. Its headquarters is in Solon, and it employs some 300 associates in its Strongsville facility. Its presence in the city was a result of acquiring Hy-Level Industries in 2008. “It was a strategic investment,” says Lindsay Domingo, vice president, talent and communications. Swagelok develops fluid system products, assemblies and services for the oil and gas, chemical and petrochemical, semiconductor and transportation industries. “We are very diversified in the markets we serve, and we are seeing growth due to the semiconductor industry boom as a result of COVID and the demand for chips, since there is still a chip shortage,” Domingo says. “We are
seeing strong sales in that area, and also the emerging clean energy market are all driving growth for us.” This means expansion in Strongsville. Swagelok will hire up to 75 associates in the next 18 months to push the plant to full capacity, which is 360 associates, 325 of whom are manufacturing professionals. Recruiting in Strongsville is supported by the Polaris Career Center, located just a few miles from the facility. “It’s a great feeder, especially of young talent coming out of high school,” Domingo says.
Swagelok started in 1947 with a $500 loan. Today, it’s a global company. And the city continuously asks, “How can we help you? How can we make sure people know you are hiring in the city?” Domingo relates. “That type of support and their willingness to use
By Kristen Hampshire
their platform and their voice to help employers in the city is priceless.”
A SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT
Swagelok has 118,000 square feet of manufacturing space in Strongsville in its 154,000 square-foot facility. “When we think about where we want to locate our facilities, especially within Northeast Ohio where our population is based, we want access to supportive business environments, which is what Strongsville is,” Domingo notes. “They have great infrastructure, a location where we can draw talent locally and from neighboring suburbs, and there is a strong offering of amenities for our associates. They continue to invest in the city, which is very important to us and most business owners. We want to see a city continually investing in not only businesses by offering goods and services, but also in amenities for its residents.” Domingo points to the Town Center project as an example of giving businesses an even greater ability to attract valuable team members — and retain them. Since acquiring Hy-Level Industries and merging the operations there, 90 Hy-Level associates are still with the business. And in 2007, there were 250 people employed in the Strongsville operation. “Over that time period, we were able to retain that great talent,” she adds. “So when you think about why you move to a city, it’s really about that access to great people, services, location and support.”
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A GIVING SPIRIT Two local Rotarians journeyed to Poland and shared the generosity of Strongsville. By Kristen Hampshire
full of medical supplies. And then, they connected with two Polish Rotary Clubs and a business group to find reputable, responsible resources that would use the funds and supplies wisely. “One of the groups was $12,000 short of reaching their goal to get two tactical ambulances, and we were able to help them reach that goal,” Krusz says. Rather than just sending the funds, Greco and Krusz decided to make the trip. “When I was seeing the lives, the humanity, the devastation, I just said, ‘I need to go,’” Greco says. Krusz, who is of Polish heritage and felt a faith pull, said, “I’m in. I’ll go with you.” They traveled to Krakow, Czestochowa, Wadowice and Warsaw. “We provided human connections — we were present and as helpful as possible, whether carrying luggage, listening to someone, passing out candies to the kids, helping in any way possible,” Krusz says. Refugees flooded in, and the country was organized and prepared, both say. “Refugees would walk up and be asked,
‘What do you need — food, medicine, a shower, clothing?’” Greco says. For both Greco and Krusz, giving is second nature. “I had a really good family and they always gave back to the community, and I remember my grandpa would ask, ‘What have you done to pay your community rental?’” Krusz says. “He was talking about giving back to the community that gives so much to you.” Greco adds, “We saw people in need — the look on their faces was like, ‘What’s next? Where do I go? What will happen to me?’ But they were being taken care of so nicely by the Polish people.” But, the crisis is ongoing and so is the need. Little things — the smallest efforts make a difference. “With all the craziness in the world … this is still going on and I can see it escalating, and so will the need,” Greco says. Krusz says the message is, “There are things you can do around here to help — maybe a veteran or an elderly neighbor or donating time in your community. We can do important things on a small scale.”
COURTESY BRIAN KRUSZ AND PATRICK GRECO
he Rotary way is “service above self” and “one profits most who serves best.” This message hit home for Brian Krusz and Patrick Greco, two longtime Rotary members and Strongsville residents who traveled to Poland in April for 10 days to deliver medical supplies and financial assistance that helped buy two ambulances and medical equipment to aid Ukraine. Greco was a Strongsville firefighter for 33 years, has traveled to Honduras and El Salvador on mission trips and helped after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Krusz is owner of Sgt. Clean Car Wash and spent eight years in the Marines. “We heard of the horrific things happening in Ukraine and we started passing the hat, and the journey began just like that,” Greco says. Donations rolled in, and then a social media update about the group’s efforts went viral, helping them raise nearly $70,000. They reached out to area fire departments and health care organizations and collected five luggage cases
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