Thursday, March 13, 2003

Tentative site picked for recreation center

West Chester trustees need more info

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - After months of debate, trustees informally agreed late Tuesday that the proposed $30 million recreation community center should go on a piece of land that will cost the township $2.5 million.

But the issue still must be investigated, trustees added, saying they don't have enough information on the two potential sites: at the southeast corner of Union Centre Boulevard and West Chester Road across from Lakota West High School, or in Beckett Park about a half mile away.

"Nothing is cast in concrete," Trustee Catherine Stoker said. "The downtown site appears to meet the master plan, stimulates business growth and is convenient to the school. But we still don't have enough information. We're all confident we have the revenue to build the community center, but we don't know yet if we have the revenue to operate it."

The owners of the 211/2 -acre parcel have offered what trustees say is a tempting deal: If the township purchases 10 acres, the owners will donate the other 111/2 and build a park with benches, fountains and a clock tower.

The land is owned by West Chester 75 Inc., a group of Union Centre investors. The group hopes the 110,000-square-foot community center will generate more businesses in the area, particularly at an open-air mall proposed next to the community center parcel.

The mall project has stalled in the past year for lack of tenants as two other malls began construction in West Chester. The mall parcel is owned by West Chester 75 and Schumacher Dugan Construction Inc.

But at Tuesday night's trustee meeting, residents expressed frustration and skepticism over the 10-year-plus process the township has taken in deciding whether to build the center.

Resident Randy Stanifer said he worried the trustees would decide where to put the center before they had all the facts about how much both sites would cost.

Another resident, Bruce Jones, accused trustees of wasting money on the project and making other bad decisions. "We are not going to move forward until we have all the information," Stoker promised. "The community center is a very complex, multifaceted project. None of us want to move forward until we absolutely confident we have designed a community center that will both meet the needs of West Chester and be affordable."


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