Thursday, January 24, 2002

Township draws inn, shopping complex


West Chester expects more

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — An open-air shopping complex and a 90-room, three-story hotel are the latest projects drawn by this fast-growing area's high-end demographics and strategic location.

        And more are on the way.

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        Township trustees have approved final plans for The Avenue of West Chester, at Muhlhauser Road and Union Centre Boulevard. Construction on the $40 million project is expected to begin this spring or summer, with a scheduled opening by the same time next year with about 40 tenants.

        “We came here because some of our favorite national retailers suggested we look in the North Cincinnati area, particularly West Chester because of the great demographics,” said Bill Bassett. He is senior vice president of Atlanta-based Cousins Properties Inc., which is developing the complex after successes with similar projects in Atlanta suburbs.

        The horseshoe-shaped, 200,000-square-foot shopping center will feature wide, landscaped sidewalks, brick paver accents and elevated walkways from stores to the parking lot. It rounds out Union Centre Commerce Park, which already includes a Marriott Hotel, restaurants and office and industrial buildings.

        No tenants are signed yet, but officials hope popular fashion stores such as The Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch will be among the offerings. There also will be bookstores, smaller retail stores and restaurants.

        Several students at nearby Lakota West High School were excited Wednesday to hear some of their favorite shops could be so close.

        “A lot of us will shop there if there's lots of stores toward our interests,” said senior Melissa Reide, 17. “There isn't anything like that now around here, so this is great news.”

        Announcements for two other major retail developments are expected soon:

        • The Streets of West Chester, a 110-acre, $100 million specialty and entertainment center at the southeast corner of the Union Centre Boulevard and Interstate 75 interchange. The complex will feature high-end shops, a movie theater, bookstore, hotel, restaurants, luxury apartments and townhomes. Continental Real Estate Companies in Columbus is expected to apply for building permits soon and tenants will be announced in 60 days, said David Kass, Continental's president.

        • Voice of America Centre, a grocery store-anchored center, on 75 acres at the northeast corner of Cox and Tylersville roads. Midland Atlantic is expected to announce two anchors next month for the 385,000-square-foot project.

        Construction also recently began on an $8 million three-story hotel on Tyler's Place Boulevard next to the Wetherington Golf and Country Club. Scheduled to open this fall, Wingate Inn Hotel will feature conference/banquet facilities, concierge service and blown-glass sculpture by artist Dale Chihuly.

        The building boom comes as developers compete for a combination of large and small retailers to lure customers from Dayton to Cincinnati in this wealthy, expanding stretch of southern Butler County. New interchanges off Interstate 75 such as Union Centre Boulevard and the Michael A. Fox Highway help fuel the growth.

        “We are a hub between Cincinnati and Dayton,” said Joe Hinson, president and CEO of the Southeastern Butler County Chamber of Commerce. “You have everything right here now.”

        West Chester saw more than 15,000 new residents in a decade, a 38.3 percent increase for a total of 54,895 residents, according to the 2000 Census. Many of the newcomers have money to spend: The average household in the region's Lakota School District earned $64,431 in 1999 — 58 percent more than Cincinnati households.

        “We are blessed with great schools, and that's the first thing people ask for when they are buying a home,” said Alan Young, a sales manger with Comey & Shepherd Realtors. “The other thing they want is access to retail of all different kinds.”

        Township leaders who approved The Avenue project Tuesday night predict between $300 and $500 million in new retail projects here over the next five years.

        “We are a mecca for upscale retail,” said West Chester Township Trustee Catherine Stoker. “The demographics of this area are forcing more upscale development. The Avenue is evidence of this. That will be a beautiful center and rousing success we hope is closely followed by other retail.”

       



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