Kroger purchase of West Chester Activity Center imminent

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The new Kroger Marketplace planned for Cox Road south of Tylersville Road in West Chester Twp. is almost a reality now that the township is finally closing on the $1.9 million sale of the old Activity Center.

The trustees agreed for a second time to sell the old Activity Center to the giant grocer in December 2022 for nearly $2 million. The due diligence deadline was Monday and the closing on the property at 7900 Cox Road is scheduled “on or before” April 3 as planned, according to Trustee Mark Welch.

After he confirmed the news with township staff he told the Journal-News, “thank you Jesus and halleluiah” when asked about the pending sale closing.

“As far as I know, anything can happen, but I think the probability is very high that we’re going to have a clean sale, on or before the third,” Welch said.

If for some reason it doesn’t come to fruition, Welch said Kroger will be out $200,000, a condition the township negotiated because Kroger reneged on the sale the first time around. There were monetary damages for non-performance of the first contract, but the trustees granted extensions and Kroger quashed the deal before it would have had to pay $100,000 for cancelling.

“I’m very happy that this could be consummated because this denotes a win-win-win,” Welch said. “The township wins, Kroger wins, the residents win. All they have to do is build a new Marketplace which is sorely needed and that people want and with the construction of that new product we’ll get an uptick in property taxation.”

Trustee Ann Becker told the Journal-News they are scheduled on Tuesday to vote to give Township Administrator Larry Burks the authority to close on the property. The exact closing date hasn’t been scheduled yet.

“The sale of our Cox Road property will bring a great new addition to our east side of town,” Becker said. “It’s something that’s needed over there and new development will add wonderful amenities for our residents.”

Trustee Lee Wong said “I’m optimistic we will have a closing date this time, I have my fingers crossed, I’d like to get rid of it, so far so good.”

Neither Kroger nor Ryan Ertel, who has been brokering the deal for Kroger and their landlord Regency Centers, could be reached for comment.

Previous talks playing role in comfort levels

The trustees are a little skittish about the deal actually being sealed because several previous deals went awry, including the first Kroger offer.

Kroger offered no explanation when it terminated their first offer at the height of the pandemic in August 2020, however the trustees told the Journal-News the giant grocer wanted the township to foot the bill for major roadwork that will be needed for the redeveloped store.

When the trustees were considering the second Kroger offer, they had a nearly identical offer on the table from Dr. Mohamed Aziz —the same purchase price and $200,000 nonrefundable earnest money — but his was a lease/purchase proposal. Aziz walked away once before too after the trustees refused to drop the price.

He reappeared last year after Illinois-based Quattro Development cancelled its $2.25 million offer in November. It also wanted a $400,000 price drop after closer inspection of the property they intended to transform into a Montessori School for their client Guidepost.

Another deal fizzled in July. The trustees were set to approve an agreement with a local family to create an event center but the offer was rescinded because financing failed for the $2.3 million offer.

The Activity Center came into play after Community First Solutions stopped providing senior programming in 2019. Shortly after, the township agreed to sell the building for $1.8 million to Regency Centers for the Kroger Marketplace. That turned out to be a two-year debacle with Kroger resurfacing several times but no deal was done.

The previous deal was contingent on Regency Centers being able to acquire the Activity Center, the Providence Bible Fellowship church, a parcel from Chesterwood Village and easements and agreements with about 10 other property owners to complete the complicated deal.

The Dixon family owned Chesterwood Village but Butler County Commissioner Don Dixon told the Journal-News they kept the slice Kroger needs when they sold the business last year. He said his brother has been negotiating with Kroger and “I think it’ll work, I think the whole thing will work.”

Church officials could not be reached for comment, but Welch said he was told Kroger has come to an agreement with them. They already relocated to the Morning Star Baptist Church location on Summerhill Drive in West Chester. The county auditor’s website shows Providence purchased the property for $2 million Feb. 26, 2020.

Kroger hasn’t shared details about the development plan since they first offered to buy the Activity Center. The early plan submitted in July 2019 said the redeveloped site would include a Kroger fuel center and 15,000 to 25,000 square feet of new retail spaces for “existing and new to market retail, service and restaurant operators.” The new Kroger would employ about 310 associates, according to the proposal.

When asked about the plans after the trustees approved the current offer in December Ertel said, “there could be some modifications, a lot of time has obviously passed, those are some things we’ll need to be looking at over the next several weeks.”

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