A Cleveland capitalist who doesn't want competition

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Tuesday, July 27, 1999

By MARK TATGE, PLAIN DEALER BUREAU

"COLUMBUS - ... Northland is owned by Cleveland shopping center magnate Richard E. Jacobs. The 30-year-old mall stands to lose its anchor department stores should a new $200 million mall open eight miles to the north.

Faced with deciding the contentious issue that has become the main focus of a mayoral race, City Council last night [7-26-99] decided instead to leave the issue up to the voters come November.

The mall's construction hinges on a special tax district set up in 1996. Most of the $20 million in taxes collected will pay for a freeway interchange to serve the 1,100-acre commercial development. The project includes a 1.5 million-square-foot shopping mall developed by Herbert Glimcher, president of Glimcher Realty Trust of Columbus.

Jacobs, fearing that the Polaris Fashion Place would destroy his mall, ralleyed homeowners near Northland and got them to sign a petition calling for the repeal of the special tax district on the grounds that he might have to close Northland.

If the district is repealed, however, city officials could find themselves over a barrel since only a portion of the proceeds was designed to benefit the shopping mall.

The rest is for infrastructure improvements in a large office park that is already partially completed and houses Bank One, Mettler-Toledo and Cigna Corp. Whether the shopping mall is built or not, someone will have to bear the cost of building the roads, sewers and streetlights, city officials said.

Officials are also concerned that should the voters repeal the special tax district in November, it could doom other taxing districts, including one established for downtown that will house a National Hockey League expansion team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In addition, the city also has a $590 million bond referendum on the November ballot for roads, sewers and other infrastructure improvements. Wall Street could view any decision to repeal a special tax district as negative, meaning the city could end up paying more in borrowing costs ...

Council members ... said repealing the district would be a grave mistake.

"This city made a commitment to develop infrastructure in the area," said Council President Michael B. Coleman ...

Bob Weiler, Glimcher's partner in the proposed mall and a majority owner of the companion commercial development, said he would continue to fight Jacobs' petition drive in court.

"I think Jacobs came down here and played to the insecurity of the people at Northland. ... What we have here is a Cleveland capitalist who doesn't want competition.""

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