Liberty’s next big development: Why Costco, $133M project come at an important place for Butler County

Credit: Journal News

Caption

Credit: Journal News

The coming $133 million Freedom Pointe development on 88 acres of prime land along the Liberty and West Chester townships’ border is more than the region’s latest variation of mix-use business and residential growth, officials said.

“How do you grow a community to become more sustainable? It requires a certain amount of business in appropriate locations,” said Liberty Twp. Trustee Christine Matacic.

Originally developers sought township zoning changes to allow 21 types of permits for uses in the 88 acres, but months of negotiations whittled those down to nine types of operations in the preliminary zoning deal approved last week by trustees.

ExploreReactions: What Liberty Twp. officials and neighbors are saying about coming Costco, $133 million development

The $133 million development package now includes a Costco, a hotel, retail and restaurant — including sit-down, fast casual and one coffee shop with drive-thru capabilities — a grocery store, townhomes and apartments.

Among the limitations made were the nixing of fast food restaurants with drive-thrus, one floor eliminated off the top of a multi-story apartment building and limited hours for deliveries and trash pickups to lessen the impact on the nearby Four Bridges golf course community.

“Liberty Twp. sees this as the entrance to one of our major business corridors and feels that having a regional destination and a conscientious business such as Costco will only enhance the attraction of businesses to our community and set the stage for years to come,” said Matacic.

Long-time Four Bridges resident Steve Stenken said he and other residents in his community, which has some homes a few hundred yards from the development, were promised a different sort of “stage.”

Any development of what has been for years fallow farmland was going to be “no higher than two-story retail and medical offices,” says Stenken, who opposes the now four-story apartment buildings included in the preliminary plans.

“This is far different … than what we had been originally promised when we moved in here. What they (township officials) are talking about now is radically different from what they told us. I’m certainly irritated and disappointed,” he said.

But fellow Four Bridges neighbor Chris Motley, whose backyard also faces the project site, said he welcomes the development.

“I’m a capitalist and I’m perfectly fine with everybody developing the land and putting buildings in place as long as they are following the (zoning) code,” said Motley.

“I have no issue with the Costco coming in and no issue with the overall (businesses). The one problem I do have is with the proposed apartment complex … I’m not in favor at all of a five-story high-rise …,” he said before trustees recently changed it to four stories. “I think it will diminish our property values,” he said, adding the mood in the upscale community is “very mixed” toward the project.

West Chester Liberty Chamber Alliance President and CEO Joe Hinson has been a long-time advocate for development along the I-75 growth corridor through the townships and north to Dayton.

Liberty Twp.’s latest plans for the Freedom Pointe project, which would stand across the highway from the township’s $350 million Liberty Center – which opened in 2015 – is worthy follow-up and further enhances the community’s economic base, said Hinson.

Moreover, the sprawling project dovetails into the township’s plans to create a new I-75 interchange development zone just north of Freedom Pointe at Milliken Road.

“Liberty Twp.’s Freedom Pointe project is one of the most important commercial development projects in the Township’s history and plays a critical role in the future outlook of our region,” said Hinson.

“It is Liberty’s gateway to future development along Cox Road, and a momentum builder for the development of its planned vision of a Milliken Road Interchange on I-75. Additionally, connecting Cox Road to a new Milliken Interchange will open up 700 acres for commercial growth on the east side of I-75, a game changer for Liberty Township and our region,” he said, referring to the planned northern extension of Cox Road, which borders the western side of Freedom Pointe development.

Developers estimate approximately 578 construction jobs will come with a projected economic impact of $223 million.

Currently there is no start or completion date for the project as the preliminary building schedule is still be formulated, said officials.

But when final plans are finished and work is eventually completed, said Matacic, the project will fill-in a key and previously vacant part of the township’s vision for economic development.

“It is only one piece of the puzzle as it takes more businesses, but this is a good step toward reaching the long-term goal of sustainability not only for the community, but for our residents, businesses, and visitors,” she said.