Sunday, November 11, 2001

Norwood gives project the go-ahead

Cornerstone to include offices, stores, food

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NORWOOD — Plans for a hotel are out, but developers have the green light to move forward with Cornerstone of Norwood, an office tower development that would replace homes and apartments now sitting on 4 acres wedged between Interstate 71 and Smith and Williams roads.

        On Friday, City Council members established a special district — or “planned unit development” — that will give them oversight over the developers' plans. They also approved preliminary development plans submitted by Ackermann Enterprises and Al Neyer Inc.

        The developers envision an office tower development to accompany retail stores, two restaurants and a parking garage. They hope to tap into the same market that has made the Rookwood retail center and office tower so popular.

        Developers are increasingly willing to pay top dollar and tackle complicated projects along I-71. The shortage of space in central Cincinnati and older suburbs is the impetus.

        At least five offices and retail projects along or near the expressway, between Madisonville and downtown, are in the works.

        Ken Schon, vice president of Al Neyer Inc., said the city's approval was needed to close on the 17 homes and three apartment buildings that must be demolished to make room for the project, which is expected to cost more than $30 million.

        Final plans, excluding the 200-room hotel that developers originally envisioned, will be submitted in the next months. Cornerstone's construction should begin by March. The project should be finished 18 months later.

        Developers decided that there wasn't enough office space to support steady hotel traffic throughout the week, Mr. Schon said.

        Residents living in the “wedge” supported Friday's vote. All but one of the 17 homeowners have agreed to sell their properties. Developers are trying to negotiate a deal with the resisting homeowner.

        “We've been given a very good offer on our property. We're anxious to get on with our lives. The development at Cornerstone will be equally successful (to Rookwood). It's in the best interest for the people living in the wedge and the city of Norwood,” said Linda Feldmann, who co-owns a Dacey Avenue home with her mother, Flonnie Stewart, 78. Mrs. Stewart plans to move to Kenwood once her property officially changes ownership.

        City officials also support the project. Mayor Joe Hochbein said Norwood's manufacturing base is gone and the city needs to establish itself as a place for office development.

        “We're in a historic transition. We have to become something new,” he said. “I'm in favor of this whole project.”


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