GREEN: A city-owned lodge and 8.71 acres of land surrounded by Southgate Park soon might be transformed into a gourmet restaurant, banquet center and winery.
Service Director Randy Monteith told City Council this week that the city has a $600,000 purchase agreement to sell the Belden Lodge and adjacent property in the southwest section of the park to the Table of Life investment group and owner/manager Kent Welsh, executive chef at Stark County’s Canton Club.
Welsh and his wife Saren, owned and operated The Table fine-dining restaurant in Millersburg before closing the facility in preparation for the new Green development.
Council could approve the sale as early as its next meeting, Jan. 8, provided the Planning and Zoning Commission gives a favorable recommendation for a special-use permit Wednesday. More details on the restaurant and winery are expected at that meeting.
Monteith said the city acquired the property in 2006 as part of Southgate Park but has been unable to permit public use because of renovation costs and lack of compliance with fire and other codes.
Cost to renovate the property for public use has been estimated in the $1 million range. Estimated annual cost of $12,000 to maintain the vacant facility led to the property being placed for sale in the fall of 2011.
“The prospective owners were driving by the property one day, saw the for-sale sign and immediately became interested,” Monteith said. He said he and others from the administration had dined at The Table restaurant and were highly impressed with their meals.
Monteith said the investment group would spend an additional $600,000 to $1 million for improvements to the lodge and property, including paying for a roadway from Massillon Road into the facility.
He said the city would finance the sale at 3.4 percent interest for 20 years, which Law Director Stephen Pruneski said is permitted because the project would bring commerce to Green.
Monteith said the city estimates saving more than $235,000 in cost reductions related to the property, which is projected to generate an estimated $178,000 in property taxes and $120,000 in income tax revenue over the 20-year period.
Green schools would receive an estimated $168,000 of the anticipated property taxes, with the city getting the other $10,000. The property currently is nontaxable.
Ward 1 Councilman Jim Colopy praised Mayor Dick Norton and the administration for their foresight and handling of the property.
“Everyone involved deserves a lot of credit for this,” Colopy said.
Welsh, who has worked with internationally known chef Wolfgang Puck, is a classically trained French chef, with vast experience in establishing restaurants around the globe, Monteith said. He said Welsh catered the Emmy Awards and Grammy Awards in 1992, as well as Julia Child’s 80th birthday party.
The Welshes’ vision for the property and lodge includes a banquet and wedding facility, producing retail product lines, gourmet catering and an on-site winery plus nutritional consulting for families, gourmet cooking classes and a community learning center to promote urban farming skills.
Monteith said it’s possible the facility could be open by May.
George W. Davis can be reached at email@example.com.