Thursday, June 24, 1999

Housing starts could set record


Construction begun or OK'd on 1,551 sites

BY JANET C. WETZEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONROE — Residents here can expect to have plenty of new neighbors in the next year or two.

        Construction is under way or approved for 1,551 home-building sites spread through 10 subdivisions here.

        And commercial/industrial growth continues at a steady pace. Another industrial park was approved last week, bringing the total to five active industrial parks within the city's 16 square miles, plus a multitude of separate parcels zoned industrial, said Jay Stewart, assistant city manag er.

        Housing starts will likely hit a record this year in this community of about 7,000, which straddles the Butler and Warren county lines.

        “So far, the biggest year was in 1997 when we had 71 built, dropping to 65 last year,” Mr. Stewart said. “We're already at 45 through May of this year, and in the next few months, I expect a significant jump.”

        Because most of the subdivisions are just getting started, and there are about 1,350 empty, platted lots, that pace should continue, he said.

        “That's going to keep us going for a long time. Plus there are other subdivisions out there in the planning stages,” Mr. Stewart said. “We should see record numbers for new homes in the city every year for the next several years, if the economy stays strong.”

        Most of the new homes are priced at $125,000 to $200,000, with options and upgrades. Some are in the $300,000 range, Mr. Stewart said.

        City Manager Don Whit man said the various reasons Monroe is enjoying such growth includes the obvious, location.

        “I think that's a key,” Mr. Whitman said. “Monroe sits directly between Cincinnati and Dayton, just off Interstate 75. Route 63 is just off Main Street with two lanes running in each direction, and it's scheduled to be widened and upgraded, and it connects to Route 4.”

        But there's more.

        “There's easy access to shopping, restaurants and other conveniences, and it's a nice, quality place to live and raise a family,” Mr. Whitman said.

        And Monroe is not suffering the growing pains that often accompany such development success, the managers said.

        Recent and pending upgrades and changes have helped the city keep pace with services, they said. These include hiring four full-time police officers to be on staff later this year, the private Monroe Fire Department's plans to hire more staff by early next year, the city's recent gain of water storage capacity, and various road expansion and improvement projects planned, under way and completed.

        “We just need to be very careful in our planning to ensure that as we continue to grow, our police, fire, street, water and other services are not overextended,” Mr. Whitman said.

        A major challenge is traffic issues, Mr. Stewart said.

        “We're always trying to find the compromise between what the city is trying to achieve as far as maintaining good traffic flow and access management, versus what developers want,” Mr. Stewart said. “We're not prepared to sacrifice good planning to get a new development. We've turned away developments because they didn't fit in with our plans.”

        But the developers just keep coming. In addition to the housing, there are 1,127 acres in active industrial parks alone, Mr. Stewart said.

        “We've had anywhere from 10 to 15 industrial/commercial projects annually for about the past five years,” from small, 10,000-square-foot warehouses to 200,000-square-foot buildings,” Mr. Stewart said. “It shows no sign of slowing.”

       



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