Thursday, January 16, 2003

W. Chester rec center sites down to 2

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - The fate of a $20 million proposed community recreation center should be decided by the end of February, township officials said Wednesday.

West Chester has narrowed the possible location to two parcels off Union Centre Boulevard; one the township already owns at Beckett Park and another it would have to buy about a half-mile away.

But that land would be a sweetheart deal for the township, one of the developers proposing it said Wednesday.

West Chester 75 Inc. is offering a 21-acre site of prime real estate across from Lakota West High School on West Chester Road.

The 110,000-square-foot center would rise on 18 acres with an additional 3 acres of parkland West Chester 75 would develop with benches, fountains in a lake and a clock tower.

If the township buys 10 acres for $2.5 million, West Chester 75 will donate the other 11 acres.

West Chester 75, a group of Union Centre investors, hopes the community center would spur economic development, particularly for an open-air mall proposed on the south side of the land, next to where the park would be. West Chester 75 and Schumacher Dugan Construction Inc., own the mall land.

"We have got a beautiful little layout for it and it's a plan we'd like to see come together and, of course to do that, we need the community center," said Chris Wunnenberg, Schumacher's development director.

Some residents who participated in focus groups last year said they would rather the township use the $2.5 million to make the facility bigger and better at the 150-acre Beckett Park.

Township trustees are expected to discuss the centerin work session sometime before the next meeting, Jan. 28.

Some residents and operators of one of the biggest fitness clubs in West Chester do not want the center to resemble a workout facility.

They say it should offer more community amenities such as craft rooms and as many recreation fields as possible.

"We want to make it for the community needs and the younger kids' activities," said Dan Zieverink, who coaches school and community sports. "We are cutting kids in basketball in the third grade because there is not enough basketball courts."

Two employees of Fitworks Fitness & Sports Therapy appeared before trustees Tuesday, urging them to proceed cautiously.

"It is of some concern to us because we would be in direct competition," said John Janszen, Fitworks' executive vice president and chief operating officer. "We are looking at an expansion project in this township, but that is on hold."

To help pay for and to operate the center, the township has entered into a preliminary partnership with Tri-Health Corporate Health Services. Tri-Health has paid for a feasibility study and financial analysis and will complete a design, construction and programming schedule.


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