By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer
An upstart development group promised Friday to deliver a retail and office complex unlike any other in Greater Cincinnati with its $225 million redevelopment of the Cincinnati Machine plant in Oakley.
Vision Land Development's ambitious plan calls for 1 million square feet of shops and a half-million square feet of office space at a factory - sold by Milacron Inc. to Unova Inc. in 1998 - known worldwide for its metal-cutting technology.
Partner Kent Arnold declined to release financial details, but he said he and his partners expect to complete a purchase of the 52-acre factory site off Marburg Avenue by June. Unova will gradually relocate the machine-tool operations to Hebron by the end of the year.
The "Millworks" project comes as the developer of the Rookwood complex pursues a $125 million expansion of the upscale Norwood shopping and office complex and owners of Kenwood Towne Centre plan changes, including a new tenant mix.
Despite the competition, Arnold said his group's plan and financial strength and the location off Interstate 71 should appeal to shops, restaurants and office tenants.
Arnold's partners include Jeffrey McClorey, who has a background in commercial real estate financing, and former Thriftway president Richard Lindner Jr.
Arnold's background includes a stint with Bearcreek Capital Land Development, and he helped Crossroads Community Church's move to the former HQ warehouse along Madison Road.
Oakley community leaders dismayed by the impact and look of large discount stores at the adjacent Center of Cincinnati development are optimistic that the Millworks project will be a better fit for the east-side neighborhood.
"This is a development that goes along much better with (Oakley's) urban renewal plan," said Sue Doucleff, president of Oakley Community Council. "We're in an old, inner-city neighborhood, and what Kent and his group does falls more in line with that.
"In his (Arnold's) own words, this is Easton on steroids."
Indeed, though no renderings have been made public, backers of the project like to compare it to Easton Town Square, centerpiece of the acclaimed Easton Town Center in suburban Columbus.
Easton architect Development Design Group of Baltimore will design the Oakley project with an emphasis on preserving much of the factory. It will also feature a 3-acre town square with shops and green space.
Vision Land also hopes to include department stores, movie theater, bookstore, gourmet grocer, gym and other small shops. The McGarey Group of San Diego will tackle retail leasing activities.
CB Richard Ellis of Cincinnati will handle office leasing.
John Eckert, senior associate at CB, said Millworks' stand-alone office and office mixed with retail should appeal to tenants.
He said the developers will pursue other users seeking office space in the area, including Sheakley Group, which reportedly is eyeing more than 100,000 square feet of office space at the Rookwood Exchange expansion.
"We would obviously like to have them (Sheakley) with our project," Eckert said. "There are several users we are pursuing right now."
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