Kroger wants to buy a West Chester activity center for a huge new store. What about the seniors who use it?

Kroger wants to build a giant new marketplace at Tylersville and Cox roads and has offered to pay West Chester Twp. $1.8 million for the senior center property there, but the sale could leave the seniors without a program.

West Chester Plaza owners Regency Centers were the only group to submit a proposal for the West Chester Activity Center. The activity center acquisition would allow for a new 95,545-square-foot Kroger, and the grocery giant and retail center owners have even bigger plans.

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“We have identified a unique opportunity to work with an adjacent property owner, Chesterwood Village, on modification to our proposed site plan that would allow us to increase the size of the new Kroger to a 117,166 +/- sq. ft Kroger Marketplace,” Ryan Ertel of Regency Centers wrote in the proposal. “It has been Kroger’s desire for many years to convert the existing (nearby) store to a Marketplace.”

The township requested proposals a month ago, setting the minimum price at $1.7 million. The Regency proposal indicates that to build the Marketplace they would also need to purchase the Providence Bible Fellowship church and property from Chesterwood Village. Church officials declined comment.

The sale was initiated by the end of the lease with Community First Solutions this December. The non-profit has been running the senior programming in the building for years.

A group of seniors came to the township imploring the trustees to save their programming in January, and a solution was in the works, but the potential sale of the building would end that option.

Talks have been going on with County Commissioner Don Dixon, whose family owns Hillandale Family Communities — a senior care company with senior living and health care locations throughout the county — to incorporate the senior programming into their expanded Chesterwood Village location on Tylersville Road.

Dixon said when the township decided to put out an RFP and sell the building, that changed his company’s plans.

“Our intent was to redo the building and keep it there and incorporate it into other services,” Dixon said. “Without the building it doesn’t fit into our space plans so yeah, we’re out.”

MORE: ‘It breaks my heart’: Why senior citizens are asking West Chester trustees to help them

Dixon said the timing didn’t work and the township’s asking price and some other requirements prevented his company from entering a bid on the property.

“At this time, it is premature to speak in detail about the disposition of the property and/or the senior citizen programming,” said West Chester Twp. spokeswoman Barb Wilson. “The board of trustees will take into consideration the proposal offered and weigh all options available to them, keeping the best interests of the community at top of mind.”

The township trustees will hold an executive session Thursday to discuss the Kroger proposal. Regency inserted a five-page addendum — that includes a provision that allows them to back out of the deal if certain things don’t materialize, like the purchase of the church property — to the proposed sales contract the township drafted as part of the RFP.

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 Ertel.

A schematic of the property shows a new Kroger on the activity center property with parking and outbuildings along Tylersville Road on the existing site. The larger Marketplace would presumably go into the church property to the south.

The timeline in the proposal calls for an 18-month due diligence period, construction starting in January 2021 and a grand opening in July 2022.

Ertel could not be reached for further comment on the plans.

Trustee Board President Mark Welch said if the deal is approved the township would expect Regency to pay for improvements to Cox Road to widen the road further south to handle additional traffic.

Welch said they have known for a while Kroger was interested in the property — the schematic is dated March 14, three months before the trustees agreed to sell — and likely when word got out about the lease terminating on the senior center, Kroger and the shopping center owners probably “saw the writing on the wall.”

Trustee Ann Becker said they still need to dig into the proposal but redevelopment is good.

“I think anytime a company like Kroger want to reinvest in our community it’s a positive,” Becker said. “They could move that Kroger anywhere near that area of town and we could be faced with another big empty building.”

Recent Kroger developments in Butler County:

December 2018: Existing Liberty Twp. Kroger celebrates end of nearly year long remodeling effort.

January 2019: New West Chester Township location opens on the corner of Ohio 747 and Tylersville Road, replacing existing West Chester location.

February 2019: Existing Middletown Kroger celebrates end of remodeling effort.

April 2019: Existing Monroe Kroger celebrates end of remodeling effort.

June 2019: Kroger breaks ground in Monroe for new warehouse that will be the nation’s first-ever high-tech customer fulfillment center as part of its partnership with U.K.-based Ocado, one of the world’s largest dedicated online grocery retailers.

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