Park Mayor Eileen Patton, Rocky River Mayor Pam Bobst and WDOK’s
Terry Moir at Westgate shopping center Saturday. (West Life
photo by Larry Bennet)
Westgate exceeds leaders’ expectations
By Kevin Kelley
Published Nov. 5, 2008
the opening of Books-A-Million, the final anchor store of the new
Westgate, the shopping center’s owners and individual stores celebrated
the redevelopment Saturday with a day of savings and special events.
The redevelopment, which began with the demolition
of a moribund indoor mall in 2006, has been an unqualified success,
said Jim Eppele, vice president for real estate development with
The Richard W. Jacobs Group, co-owners of the property.
“It exceeded our expectations in the way it turned
out,” Eppele told West Life. “We couldn’t be an happier.”
Eppele, who joined Jacobs in 1999, said the company
had been looking at ways to revitalize Westgate Mall since the day
he started there.
Renovation projects were contingent on the plans of
Dillard’s department store, Eppele said. Once Dillard’s announced
it was closing its Westgate location, the opportunity to recreate
Westgate emerged, he said.
Eppele said Jacobs always planned to keep the property
a retail center.
“We thought there was a lot of potential to better
serve the community with better retailers, better restaurants,”
Eppele said he’s happy with the variety of shops that
have opened at Westgate.
About 90 percent of the center has been leased, he
Westgate today compared to an artist’s rendition of the planned
redevelopment when details were first announced in May 2005
Eppele noted that the surrounding area boasts an unusually
high level of population density — 100,000 people live within a
three-mile radius of Westgate.
“It’s so convenient for so many people,” he said.
Susan Godorov, a vice president at Centro Properties
Group, a partner with Jacobs in Westgate, said the center should
continue to do well even during an economic downturn. Stores such
as Target and Marshall’s are value driven, she said, and will draw
customers regardless of the economic climate.
“This will continue to be a strong center,” Godorov
told West Life.
Eppele said he has not heard any complaints about
the layout of the traffic lanes within the center.
“I think the traffic flow was very well thought out,”
he said. Because it’s a new center, the layout will take some getting
used to, he added.
Unlike a typical strip shopping center, one can’t
stand in one spot at Westgate and see every store at once, Eppele
said. This, he believes, adds to the center’s sense of community.
“It feels more intimate because of the way the buildings
are arranged,” he said.
Most of Westgate lies within Fairview Park, except
for Lowe’s, which is in Rocky River. Mayors of both communities
took part in Saturday’s “Celebrate Westgate” ceremony.
Rocky River Mayor Pam Bobst said the Westgate stores
that have already opened have been great community partners and
been generous with her city’s civic organizations.
In addition, the redevelopment of Westgate served
as a catalyst for additional commercial development along Center
“We see wonderful things happening all along the Center
Ridge corridor,” Bobst said.
Bobst told West Life that she did not agree with her
predecessor, Bill Knoble, who had opposed a redevelopment of Westgate
and expressed a wish that the mall be kept open.
“That wasn’t going to happen,” Bobst said of the wish
to preserve the mall.
Although most of the center is located in Fairview
Park, Bobst said Westgate is important to residents of her city.
“Our residents shop here,” she told West Life. “They
want the convenience.”
In an interview with West Life, Fairview Park Mayor
Eileen Patton said she is very pleased with how Westgate turned
“The design of it is beautiful,” Patton said, adding
that she likes the variety and price range of the center’s stores.
“You can go from getting your eyes fixed to buying
baby clothes there,” she said of the centers’ 40 stores.
During Saturday’s ceremony, Patton said personnel
from the Jacobs Group, especially Eppele, were great to work with.
“The decisions and actions of everyone involved in
this project were guided by our goals to preserve our heritage of
Westgate Mall,” Patton said. “That was very important to us. But
then we also wanted to present a sense of pride for the future generations.
And I think with everyone involved in this, we certainly have accomplished
Jim Kennedy, economic development director for Fairview
Park, told West Life that the redeveloped center exceeded the city’s
“I think it’s a great facility and a great destination
point from a retail standpoint,” Kennedy said. “I think the food
places are doing particularly well.”
City officials appreciate the investment in excess
of $32 million that the Jacobs Group made in Westgate, Kennedy said.
In its dealing with the Jacobs Group, Kennedy said
the city tried to minimize the amount of bureaucratic red tape involved
in the project.
“As an inner ring suburb, you have to be that way
if you want to compete,” Kennedy said.
Joe Muggs coffee shop located inside Books-A-Million. (West
Life photo by Larry Bennet)
Westgate’s newest store, Books-A-Million, opened on
Oct. 23. General Manager Carla Reardon, who comes from the chain’s
Toledo store, said the staff’s level of customer service helps to
set it apart from other megabookstore chains.
“Our No. 1 focus is our customers,” Reardon said.
Books-A-Million, which includes a coffee bar, also
offers WiFi Internet access for $3 per day. Members of the chain’s
discount card program, which costs $20 annually, get free WiFI access
as well as a 10 percent discount on all sales.
Other store managers report business has been good
Tony Tristano, manager at Five Guys Burgers, told
West Life that the location has met owners’ expectations.
He believes the majority of recent customers came
specifically to eat at Five Guys.
“Our growth will come from people who are out shopping
— more ‘walk-ins,’” Tristano said.
of Rocky River and Stephanie Morley of Cleveland taste some
Pinot Noir, a red wine from Germany, during a wine tasting at
Westgate's WineStyles Saturday. (West Life photo by Kevin Kelley)
Business at WineStyles, which opened in April, has
been pretty good, reported franchise owner Ellen Z. Todia.
“It’s picking up as more and more stores (at Westgate)
are opening,” she said.
WineStyles sells wines from all over the world. Most
bottles sell for under $25.
“They’re organized by taste so it takes the mystery
out of buying a bottle of wine,” she said.
Todia, a Rocky River resident, who went into the wine
business in part because WineStyles was listed by Entrepreneur magazine
as one of the top 10 franchises, reported that Westgate was “very
competitive in lease negotiations.”
“It seemed like the best location,” Todia said.
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