Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Beverly Hills site astir

Survey stakes spotted in Southgate

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SOUTHGATE — City officials are convinced something is going on at the 80-acre Beverly Hills property, where 165 people died in a supper club fire nearly 24 years ago. They just don't know what that something is.

Dick Riesenberg, Southgate fire chief at the time of the 1977 fire, made a rave visit to the site in 1996.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        A few weeks ago, surveying stakes - short, thin pieces of wood noticeable by the pink strands of ribbon tied to each one - began appearing around the hilly property.

        The stakes could be a sign that the property is being prepared for sale or possibly a development project. Despite at least five development plans proposed over the years, no construction has taken place since the deadly fire that broke out the evening of May 28, 1977.

        Members of City Council have seen the stakes but don't know who put them on the Beverly Hills property.

Beverly Hills anniversary coverage
        “I've been asking that same question, but nobody seems to know,” Southgate Mayor Chuck Melville said Monday.

        Councilman Reno Deaton assumes the survey is being done by the property's owner, Sencorp, a Newport-based holding company that operates a maker of industrial and medical fasteners. Sencorp bought the property in 1990 and holds the site through its KLD Corp. subsidiary.

        But Marilyn Calvert, director of corporate administration for Sencorp, said Monday the company is not performing a survey of the property nor are any sales or development plans in the works.

Zoned for offices

        Some council members speculated that a potential developer or buyer might be surveying the property.

        “We have heard there might be a company interested in building a medical facility and retirement community up there, but I'm not sure the city would be terribly interested in something like that,” Mr. Deaton said Monday.

        The property is zoned for professional office buildings, which is what the city wants to see built on the property, Mr. Deaton said.

        But if there is a development plan for the site, it hasn't been formally filed with any of the groups or agencies that would receive such information.

        Officials at the Campbell County Planning and Zoning Commission and the county Property Value Administrator's office said they have not seen or heard of any plans for the property.

        According to records at the PVA's office, the property is assessed at $3.9 million and is split into two parcels - one slightly more than 30 acres, one nearly 50 acres.

Stakes all over
        Dan Tobergte, senior vice president at the Tri County Economic Development Corp., or Tri-ED, said Monday the job recruitment agency is not working with any potential developers or buyers of the property.

        “We know about the stakes, but we don't know what is going on,” Mr. Tobergte said.

        The stakes are along the private access road that leads to the property from the parking lot of a medical building on U.S. 27 just south of Interstate 471.

        They are also shoved into the ground farther south along U.S. 27, where the property has some frontage, as well as along Blossom Lane, the eastern boundary of the site.

        Councilman Jim Hamberg said he recently drove up to the top of the property and found stakes as well as pink flags tied to bushes and trees all over the land.

        “It looks to me like somebody is trying to determine the exact boundaries of the property,” said Mr. Hamberg, who has experience with land deals through his work as a corporate banker.

        “But I don't know for sure because I haven't been able to find anything out,” he said.

        Despite its tragic past, the Beverly Hills site would seem ideally suited for development.

        It sits on a hill with a stunning view of downtown Cincinnati and has easy access to U.S. 27 and Interstate 471.

        Although developers have proposed hotels, office buildings, restaurants, a corporate meeting center and a shopping mall on the the site, deals have, for various reasons, fallen through.

        One plan from the late 1980s to build a hotel and corporate meeting center died after the developer couldn't finance the project.

        Citicorp inspected the property in 1995 before deciding to build a credit card processing and collection center on Houston Road in Boone County.

        The most recent full-blown proposal came in 1996, when Cincinnati-based Mayerson-Anderson Development Co. unveiled plans for a $90 million project that included two six-story office towers, more than 480,000 square feet of retail space in eight large buildings, and a memorial to victims of the 1977 fire.

        But those plans fell apart after vehement opposition from a group of Southgate residents, including many from a residential development — Fairway Crossing — that abuts the property.


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