The city of Middletown’s economic growth may be moving a little more east than previously proposed.
Now that negotiations between the city and the owners of the Towne Mall Galleria have been cancelled, City Council is being asked to approve a new development opportunity at the city’s gateway along I-75.
City Council is expected to vote tonight whether to purchase 29 acres of land at the southeast corner of Union Road and Ohio 122 and adjacent to property the city already owns for $6.2 million, according to the council agenda.
The city has held the opportunity to acquire this property in the event that the previously planned redevelopment of the Towne Mall site could not be realized, city officials said. Last month, the city cancelled its $16 million purchase agreement and thereby scrapping its plans to redevelop the Towne Mall Galleria into a fresh new urban space.
The original plan was pitched by Middletown’s previous city manager Jim Palenick. He and his staff envisioned the 45-year-old Towne Mall being converted into a sports and entertainment complex with local retail options, hotels, bars, restaurants and residential areas.
Tal Moon, the longest serving member of the Middletown City Council, has said the purchase and estimated construction price of the Towne Mall Galleria project made it “cost prohibitive to the point of endangering the sustainability of the development.”
At the new site, preliminary plans call for the delivery of $160 million of new commercial, office, and residential development anchored by a regional sports and event facility, according to officials.
The city said in a press release that council’s vote of the emergency legislation represents “an initial step toward bringing this unique project to fruition.”
Zack Ferrell, a Middletown council member and Realtor, said the new plan means the city “gets the same project, with more land for opportunity, at a more reasoned price. We want the mall redeveloped but want to be partners, not finance it all.”
He said the “proven developers” no longer have to tear down and work around other structures. That means they they have “a blank canvas” to design what the market wants and needs, Ferrell said.
“This can be the catalyst that puts Middletown back on the map and redefines the imagine of our town,” he said.
The city entered into a memorandum of understanding with Ascent Real Estate Advisors, LLC/Woodard Development earlier this year when Ascent was tasked with getting the subject properties under contract for eventual purchase.
The parcels are owned by Henry K. Fischer and Elaine M. Fischer, trustees of the Fischer Family Foundation.
Under the contract and its amendment, the city has the option to purchase the parcels for $6,236,203 with a closing date in mid-summer of 2023. The agreement calls for the depositing of non-refundable earnest money in the interim. The first payment of $25,000 is due on Dec. 26, 2022 and a second payment of $125,000 is due on Feb. 23, 2023,
Both deposits will be credited toward the purchase price at closing.
Council also is expected to vote on proposed legislation that would authorize City Manager Paul Lolli to execute a second amendment to the consulting services agreement between the city and Community Center Partners (CCP) related to the development a planned multi-use development.
The city entered into a consulting services agreement between CCP, in partnership with Warren County, in early 2022 for pre-development consulting services related to the planned redevelopment of the Towne Mall site. That redevelopment concept called for the construction of a new multi-use, planned development anchored by a regional sports and events venue.
Middletown and Warren County officials are beginning the pre-development and due diligence process related to the new site with the goal of having a “binding framework” agreed to by all parties in early 2023, according to the city.
The proposed contract amendment would facilitate CCP’s performance of additional work related to the new site that is not transferrable from the previous development site location.
The cost of the work is $260,000 and would come from the city’s general fund. These funds are reimbursable by TIF proceeds in the event the development proceeds to construction. Warren County has agreed to share in the new costs in keeping with the existing contractual partnership arrangement.
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