Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Redevelopment plan costly

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT THOMAS — The results of a market study presented to city council Monday night may have sounded a death knell for some parts of a proposed business district redevelopment plan.

        James Hassenbein, vice president of the GEM Real Estate Group of Dayton, explained that the numbers developed by his company in the study show that plans to totally redevelop a block in the center of town — includ ing removal of several private homes — would be too expensive.

        “Acquisition and demolition costs make that portion of the plan economically infeasible,” Mr. Hassenbein said, much to the delight of about 100 residents who packed council chambers to voice opposition to the redevelopment plan.

        The overall plan, which in four phases over several years would cost about $12 million, was developed primarily by Fort Thomas Forward, a group of residents and business leaders appointed by council to look at redeveloping the business district.

        The GEM market study indicated that the initial phase of the plan would have an “economic gap” of $1.3 million. That is, the cost of acquisition and demolition of existing property and construction of new buildings would end up costing $1.3 million more that the resale value of the property.

        The economic gap for the entire plan would be in excess of $4 million, according to the study.

        “Those are pretty compelling numbers and they say this is not going to work economically at this time,” city manager Jeff Earlywine said. “I think we must amend the master plan for redeveloping the central business district, eliminating purchase and demolition of the houses on Miller Lane and Lumley Avenue. The staff now needs to be looking at funding mechanisms for the other portions of the master plan, and to select priorities.”

        The redevelopment plan includes a streetscape project on North Fort Thomas Avenue through the central business district, eliminating utility poles and overhead wires and possibly moving all the utilities underground.

        The city had hoped to receive a $323,000 grant from the state to defray part of the cost of the streetscape, which is estimated to cost over $700,000, but the grant was not awarded this year.

        The redevelopment master plan formulated by the members of the Fort Thomas Forward group called for demolition of all the structures in the block bordered by North Fort Thomas, Miller, Lumley and Haggedorn. That block would become a city center, with speciality shops, restaurants and other businesses and offices.


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