Concerns Over Parking Grow as Magpie Closes

Tyler Sloan, Editor in Chief

Magpie Pizza’s storefront on East College Street showed no sign of life on Sunday afternoon. Next to the “Closed” sign, a note hung ominously on the front door.

“Dear Oberlin Residents and Valued Magpie Pizza Customers: It is with deep regret that Magpie Pizza has closed its doors permanently in the East College Street, Oberlin Location,” the typed letter read. “The management of Magpie Pizza was fortunate to have leased the beautiful space, created by Sustainable Community Associates, and we cannot thank the people of Oberlin enough for allowing us to be a part of your lives for almost five years. We have truly enjoyed this wonderful and unique community.”

Magpie’s management, which first opened the restaurant’s Oberlin location in 2011, announced that it will not renew its five-year lease with Sustainable Community Associates on Sunday. The popular pizza store will instead pick up shop and reopen at Cobblestone Square in Sheffield Village within one month, according to its official Facebook page. Magpie’s management could not be reached for comment for this article.

The restaurant was part of Sustainable Community Associates’ East College Street Project, which aimed to “redevelop an abandoned brownfield in downtown Oberlin into a sustainably designed, mixed-use building containing 33 condos for sale and 20,000 square feet of retail and office space for sale and for lease,” according to the company’s website.

“The project is dynamic — it’s going to change tenants many times over the years, and we look forward to having something that people will enjoy in Oberlin,” said Josh Rosen, OC ’01, one of the founders of Sustainable Community Associates. Rosen added that there are no definitive plans for what will replace Magpie but that the company is currently searching for a substitute.

With the construction of the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center, many downtown business owners have expressed concern over how the loss of parking spaces will affect local shops. Outgoing City Manager Eric Norenberg said that he received complaints from other businesses in the East College Street Project about parking but not from Magpie’s management.

“As a result, earlier this year we contacted the East College Street Project landlord about improving parking management to support the needs of customers and employees,” Norenberg said in an email to the Review. “And, in conjunction with the hotel project, we are considering plans to make parking changes on the block that will assist customers of all businesses between Main Street and Pleasant Street — subject to continuing negotiations with Oberlin College.”

Cowhaus Creamery, also a member of the East College Street Project and Magpie’s neighbor, teetered on the edge of going out of business last February. Josef Bomback, OC ’76, co-owner of Cowhaus, said that the lack of parking on College and Main Streets led to a 30 percent drop in revenue. While Magpie did not bring the issue to Norenberg’s attention, many local business owners have agreed that the lack of parking has led to decreased patronage and retail.

Dedicated customers and businesses, including Cowhaus management and City Council member Sharon Pearson, took to the restaurant’s Facebook page to express sorrow over Magpie’s closure.

“Magpie was my favorite institution,” said Max Condon, College junior. “I was in absolute denial at first. I discovered it first semester freshman year, and since then it was me and Blue Hawaiian pizza at least once or twice a week. My life is forever altered, but I will hopefully visit their new location soon.”