Crocker Park is at once a beautiful, useful, and forward-thinking shopping, entertainment, and living complex, and also a major source of congestion, stress, traffic, noise, and an emblem of everything that is wrong with suburban sprawl.
You don't even have to necessarily believe one or the other. You can think both views are right and both views are wrong. We like to think these things from a distance.
Regardless, Crocker Park has already left a massive thumbprint on Westlake's western edge, and that thumbprint is about to grow in a big way if Crocker Park's developers get their way.
The Plain Dealer reports that Stark Enterprises has submitted a new master plan to Westlake officials which show expansion plans for Crocker that would "double the size of the mixed-use town center, adding offices for American Greetings Corp., a hotel, more stores and restaurants, several parking garages and entertainment including a bowling alley."
That would bring the total to 3 million square feet, according to the report.
If you guessed that not all residents, particularly those most affected by the traffic and congestion of Crocker Park, are in favor of the expansion, you'd be right.
"There is tension between this huge proposed expansion of Crocker Park and the established and well-kept residential communities which adjoin Crocker Park, particularly Savannah Estates and Wyndgate Club," Joseph Gardewin, a Wyndgate resident, wrote in a recent letter addressed to the city's planning director.
And on the other side:
"It's not just a numbers game here," said Jack Bialosky, Jr., senior principal with Bialosky + Partners Architects, which is working with Stark Enterprises. "Obviously numbers are interesting. But there are other aspects that are important here, in terms of providing a heart of a city, providing a true center where people live, work, recreate. It's not just a retail development. And it's something that is aspirational, actually, for a lot of cities. ... Every city can't have a mixed-use core like this."
The biggest issue at hand seems to be the traffic, which already is a major headache at times, with over 1,300 trips being made in and out of the complex during rush hour, according to one study.
One estimate has rush hour traffic at the complex tripling by 2030, though the architects stress that that is an extreme estimate and assumes that you build out every single square foot of the available space.
Westlake is already planning ahead to deal with the vehicle stresses, with a $5 million project nearing the halfway point in design.
The city plans to build a split bypass at Crocker and Clemens roads, to reduce congestion along Clemens. And just to the south, the city expects to add another lane to the I-90 westbound ramp onto Crocker Road, where traffic already backs up in the mornings and evenings.
There's more ideas on the books with money to back them up, including a retooling of the city's traffic light system.
A lot of work to ensure that twentysomethings can pick up the newest $50 "vintage" t-shirt from Urban Outfitters without too much trouble.