Saturday, August 30, 2003

Street on project's edge faces cloudy fate

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NORWOOD - Eleven homeowners remain in limbo despite City Council's decision this week to move forward with the Rookwood Exchange office and retail development.

Council agreed 9-0 Tuesday to consider using eminent domain to clear a wedge of land for the development, but properties on Dacey Avenue - the northern tip of the wedge - are not included.

Dacey isn't part of the project's first phase, and according to developer J.R. Anderson of Anderson Real Estate, he has contracts to buy only four of the 11 properties. Two are in final negotiations, he said.

"I don't like anybody forcing me to move," said Leola Ashenhurst, 79, a resident not yet under contract. "I didn't aim to sell, but I supposed I would if they offered enough."

Anderson and Miller-Valentine Group won't buy any of the Dacey properties if they can't buy all of them, Anderson said.

"It doesn't do any good to buy bits and pieces," he said.

That doesn't sit well with Councilman Will DeLuca.

"You've got some property owners who have been under contract for a good year and a half ... and have done basically everything that's been asked of them," DeLuca said. "I'd like to see the developers follow through and honor those contracts."

The first phase of Rookwood Exchange will be built on 11 acres just north of the Rookwood Pavilion and Rookwood Commons developments. It'll include office space, shops, restaurants and condos.

The developers say they have agreements with all but seven owners of the properties they want on Atlantic and Garland avenues and Edwards and Edmondson roads. For the Exchange to go forward, the city must strike deals with those owners or take the properties through eminent domain in the next month.

If the project doesn't get bogged down in legal action - as has been threatened - developers could close on the 79 first-phase properties in early 2004, Anderson said. Dacey properties could be bought six to 12 months later if all owners agreed, he said.

It's less certain what would go on Dacey, Anderson said. It was not part of the original plan, but officials didn't want one street left as an island amid Interstate 71, Edwards Road and the Rookwood complex.


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