Monday, October 11, 1999

Mall, market, schools set town abuzz

Residents vary in views on proposed developments

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONROE — This town of 7,000 is all abuzz — and not just about their high school football team, the “Fighting Hornets.”

        A proposal to build a “super mall” near Interstate 75, the recent state go-ahead for residents to decide if they want their own school district, and the continued absence of a local supermarket are providing plenty of conversational fodder.

        Ask most anyone in the city, and they have an opinion on one or all of these lifestyle issues — opinions as varied as colors of fall leaves hanging on the trees in this rapidly growing community straddling the Butler-Warren county line.

        Downtown and most of the residential area sits in Butler, while a chunk of primarily commercial/industrial is in Warren — the proposed mall site.

        “Give us that mall,” said Suzanne Yater, a 14-year resident who works at the Ameristop Food Mart on East Avenue. “We desperately need some shopping areas. We have no shoe store, no grocery store, no clothing store, no video storeand no book store. I know it will mean more traffic ... but we're a growing city and we may as well get used to that. We used to think four cars was a traffic jam around here.”

        Ms. Yater also favors the school split, which she said could benefit from taxes the mall would generate.

        Chuck Shelby, also a 14-year resident, said he'd welcome a grocery store, but not a mall.

        “I think it will really hurt this place. People are already talking about moving if they put that mall in,” Mr. Shelby said. “Yeah, we need shopping, but this is not worth it. People like this small-town atmosphere. That's why they're here.”

        Plenty of decisions still have to be made, but these are the events that have captured headlines recently:

        • A Michigan company has taken an option on land for a proposed 1.7-million-square-foot mall with 340 shops and an entertainment complex with theaters and restaurants. Promoters say it could mean 3,000 jobs early on and up to 13,000 when complete, and be a bigger draw than Paramount's Kings Island. There is no time line for a decision, which hinges on a proposed new Interstate 75 interchange at Kyles Station Road.

        • In March, Monroe voters will decide whether to split Monroe from the Middletown-Monroe Schools after four decades. If approved, Monroe should have a separate district, with an estimated 1,100 students, by July. In September the Ohio Board of Education approved the request by Committee on Reviewing Education (CORE) to allow residents to decide the issue.

        • The city's only supermarket, McGee's IGA, citing a con tinuous decline in business, closed in June 1998, leaving a major void and residents pleading for city intervention.

        That could happen soon, Mayor Elbert Tannreuther said.

        “I'm going to ask council on Tuesday to pursue some options in trying to entice a grocery store to come to town,” the mayor said. “I can't discuss details until after I've talked to council.”

        Frank Takach, 73, a 48-year resident who retired last year as the city's general superintendent, wants that supermarket. And he hopes the long-rumored super mall materializes in his lifetime. But he's not optimistic. And he doesn't want to see his city disappointed again the way it was about 30 years ago when Chrysler bought a large parcel and planned to build a stamping plant, bringing needed jobs and taxes.

        “It never happened,” Mr. Takach said. “Now, the mall would be a good thing for Monroe. But the traffic is going to be hell. It already is out there now on weekends.”

        Jeremy Williams, a resident most of his 18 years, said the mall would put Monroe on the map.

        “Instead of just being that little place near Middletown, if they build the mall people will be saying, "You have to go out to Monroe to that big mall'.”

        Dave Hilton said he and co-workers at Ohio Transmission on Garver Road see no positive points in a super mall in the city, and the already bad traffic would become a nightmare.

        “You have Dayton Mall, Towne Mall and Tri-County Mall nearby. What more do you want?” Mr. Hilton said.

        Resident Harold Kennedy is reserving judgment about the mall until he knows more details. But as the father of two school-age children, he's convinced the school split is a good idea. .

        Resident Candy Collins has been on the fence about the school issue, but as the mother of a step-daughter in the district who lives with her mother in Middletown, she's leaning toward the “nay” side.

        “I tend to think it would be better if the district doesn't split, because it will be harder to support two separate school districts. And if they stay together, the entire district would benefit from the mall taxes,” said Mrs. Collins, a mall and supermarket proponent.

        Even Bill Daniels, Ameristop owner, said a supermarket is needed, and a mall would benefit Monroe.

        “I don't think either will hurt us,” said Mr. Daniels, a Blue Ash resident. “Let's face it, people want a store where they can buy fresh meat. And I think this community needs something like the mall. Look at the extra taxes it would bring.”


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