New Fairfield business park on Liberty Mutual site expected to bring hundreds of new jobs

Ambrose Property Group is looking to fill the employment void of hundreds of jobs coming when Liberty Mutual leaves Fairfield next year.

The purchase of the Seward Road property is the Indianapolis-based developer’s first Ohio investment. It closed on the former Liberty Mutual property, which includes the 276,000-square-foot building and 137 total acres, in separate deals.

The project, which is expected to be a $50 million investment, could bring between 600 and 1,000 jobs to the city, said Eric Seamands, Ambrose Property development manager.

“We have been looking for opportunities to grow regionally,” he said.

The property will be renamed Fairfield Commerce Park, and the company will break ground on two new buildings — one 246,000 square feet and another 300,000 square feet — this summer, Seamands said. A third building will be designed this fall, and two more could be added depending on demand.

The project is expected to attract businesses that deal in e-commerce and light industrial industries, and there are no lease agreements with new companies at this point.

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Ambrose began looking at the property about a year ago, and “quickly put the site under contract … and closed on the property at the end of 2019,” Seamands said.

“Industrial development is one of the strongest sectors right now,” he said. “Really across most cities, industrial development has been really strong.”

Fairfield City Councilman Tim Abbott lauded Ambrose Property for its expansion into the southwest Ohio community.

“Liberty Mutual was one of our largest employers, and this is really going to help fill that void with them moving elsewhere,” said Abbott.

Liberty Mutual, formerly known as Ohio Casualty, sold their property at 9450 Seward Road and the adjacent vacant land for more than $17 million in two transactions. The insurance company had 800 employees in the city and another 300 who worked remotely but were assigned to the Fairfield location.

The 1,100 total employees made the company the city’s fourth-largest employer. Liberty Mutual will lease the building from Ambrose, with the deal expiring in summer 2021.

The city’s development services team and Ambrose Property officials had been meeting since January to develop a site plan and a tax incentive agreement.

While this is Ambrose Property’s first Ohio development, they are looking at property on the south side of Columbus.

Part of the agreement is standard for the city’s Community Reinvestment Agreement — 10-year, 75 percent property tax abatement on renovations and new construction, with payments to the Fairfield City Schools and Butler Tech. But the performance-based elements of the agreement are “really unique,” said Fairfield Development Services Manager Nathaniel Kaelin.

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The developer has committed to specific revenue targets to “ensure there’s appropriate job creation at the site.” There are established revenue targets for each remodeled or newly constructed building based on income tax received by the city.

If the tenants do not make that target, then the developer would be either responsible for making up the difference in the designated tax year or forgo the abatement for that year. Kaelin said they don’t believe it will be an issue as light industrial and e-commerce are growing markets.

New construction and building renovations are eligible for the 10-year abatement until 2028.

City officials said they know of only one other community in Ohio that has extended this type of tax abatement to a company.

“(It’s) a backstop for the city and our taxpayers,” Kaelin said of the performance-based agreement.

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