Plain Township, a newfound identity

Oakwood Square now emerging as Plain’s ‘center of town’


Amphitheater design from the Derby Informer (left). Current view of Oakwood Square’s open space (right).

Now entering Plain Township, a sign that most of us drive past every day without thinking much about it.

While most GlenOak students live in Plain, many do not feel a sense of community or identity as a township.

Christina Nakoul is a senior at the high school and a Plain Township resident.

“I never really felt a sense of community living in Plain Township,” Nakoul said. “We don’t have a downtown or anything.”

Looking at a map of Stark County it is easy to see why this is. Plain Township is largely broken up due to annexation from cities. Plain was once a square, but over time cities began enticing landowners to leave, chipping away at the once unified township. 

This has left Plain with a map that looks hastily drawn. Random sections of land are connected spanning from Meyer’s Lake to Middlebranch to route 62, with no clear sense of belonging. 

This is a sharp contrast to Jackson Township, which has historically fought annexation. Today Jackson’s map is an untouched square, with a clear downtown area and arguably more identity.

The division in Plain has prevented a town center from forming, leaving the township with few discerning landmarks and little identity. It seemed like the geographical disadvantages that exist in Plain would never allow this to change.

Even with the challenges, a community hub of sorts has recently formed in an unlikely place, Oakwood Square. This was unexpected because a few short years ago the property was mostly vacant. Former tenants, most notably Giant Eagle, had left Oakwood Square long ago, leaving the plaza a lifeless, hollow shell of what it once was. 

That all changed in 2017, when property developer Grant Giltz bought the square.

“Before we bought the shopping center it was dilapidated and run down. So we came up with a plan of what Oakwood is going to look like,” Glitz said. “We put a facelift on the building, new parking lot, new roofing, etc.”

The investment worked, as the new anchor store Drug Mart moved in. Along with it a myriad of other businesses came including Tlaquepaque, Royal Docks Brewing Company, John’s Bar, Ace Hardware and more. 

“[Plain Township] needed a center of town, where the community can come together and recognize this is where the activity is. The township came to us, and it was determined Oakwood Square was the best location for that,” Glitz said.

The community responded well to the revitalization of the square, as traffic drastically increased after the renovations. Events such as 720 Market, the Plain Township Farmers Market , and local musicians began to utilize the green space next to the plaza. It was clear that the Plain community was embracing Oakwood Square and its amenities. 

“It’s always packed when I go there,” Global Politics and government teacher Ryan Foltz said. “It’s great to see the plaza cleaned up, it’s unrecognizable from when I was in high school.”

In January 2022 the township announced that an amphitheater was planned to be added to the square.

Local musicians and events already utilize the plaza’s open space, but Plain hopes an amphitheater will further establish Oakwood square as an entertainment venue.

Plain Township Trustee Brooke Harless spoke to The Eagle about the importance of Oakwood Square, as well as the upcoming amphitheater.

“I feel this will be beneficial for our township, not only for our residents but our businesses as well, to promote unity in our community, tourism, and economic development,” Harless said. “Amphitheaters unite communities and promote tourism. [At Oakwood Square] people can dine, shop, and enjoy outdoor entertainment. It will also boost our local economy.”

The amphitheater will be paid for by the township, and they will rent the land from Glitz for $1 a year. The project is currently in the design phase.

Oakwood Square is proving to be a hit for the Plain Community, and it is clear Glitz’s investment is paying off. Further additions, such as the amphitheater, have the potential to cement the square as the heart of the township.