Forest Fair demolition project receives state funding

Former mall sits on Fairfield and Forest Park borders.

Butler County’s Land Bank will receive $8.7 million in grant funds for 51 projects, though most of the money is earmarked for the demolition of Forest Fair Village.

The grant funds are from the state budget approved last year. The county already received an initial allocation of $500,000 that did not require any matching funds this past winter. That money has been earmarked to help raze eyesore structures.

Ohio had a first-come, first-serve grant application where counties could seek a piece of $106 million in state funds earmarked for demolition. Butler County was awarded the $8.7 million grant this past Friday. County Land Bank Executive Director Seth Geisler said about $1 million of that newly awarded state grant would help complete 50 of the 51 those projects it applied for, which include mostly residential and smaller commercial properties in Hamilton, Middletown, Fairfield Twp. and St. Clair Twp. by the spring.

“We have already put out to bid on our guaranteed funds of $500,000,” he said. “We have not started work for anything above that, and this is what allows us to do.”

ExploreFormer Forest Fair Mall, other buildings will be demolished if funds come through

That last project, which the lion’s share of the grant will support, is to help demolish Forest Fair Village, but if it’s all or most of the mall is unknown at this time, said Geisler. The complex is formerly known as the Cincinnati Mall, Cincinnati Mills, and Forest Fair Mall and straddles the Fairfield and Forest Park borders in Butler and Hamilton counties, respectively.

“We still need to dig into the details,” he said. “It’s great to have the approval, but once we can knock out a timeline that works, that’s when we’ll know where we’re at.”

In February, officials said the total mall demolition is estimated at $10.5 million and there is a $2.6 million local match the developer would pay.

The land bank is essentially a pass-through agency for the project. The grant is for 75% of the project’s cost and the developer is required to come up with the remaining 25%, Geisler said. The state’s money is supposed to be spent by May 2023, which he doesn’t anticipate will happen. Geisler said once a timeline is established, they’ll know if they can realistically spend the money by the deadline or have a conversation with state officials.

ExplorePHOTOS: When Forest Fair Mall was full and thriving

The land bank next meets on Nov. 14.

Ohio Rep. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton, who represents Fairfield in the Statehouse, said the land reutilization funding from the state operating budget will “make Butler County a better place to live.”

“I really believe that these kinds of strong investments are going to make a difference for Ohio families,” she said. “With these grants, we can really work on uplifting our communities to bring viable businesses to our area and create jobs.”

Fairfield Development Services Director Greg Kathman said the city of Fairfield has not received a redevelopment application for the property, which about the northern quarter of the mall sits in Fairfield’s jurisdiction.

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