One of Ohio’s most modern youth centers opens today in Olde West Chester, and here’s why it’s a big deal

The doors will open this morning on the biggest change the tiny community of Olde West Chester has seen in decades.

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But the cutting-edge, $6.9 million Boys & Girls Club is just the latest and largest in a series of changes in the once-sleepy, small business stretch near the Interstate 75 and Cincinnati-Dayton Road interchange. In the past, this historic center of township was often overshadowed by the booming success of the nearby and larger Union Centre and I-75 business district, but it’s now shining in its own spotlight.

This afternoon, after Lakota Schools’ 16,500-student district ends classes, hundreds of Lakota students are expected to take provided buses for the first time to the two-story Boys & Girls Club at 8735 Cincinnati-Dayton Road.

“This is the biggest thing to happen to Olde West Chester in decades,” said West Chester Twp. Trustee Mark Welch, who also owns SoZo Hair by Bajon Salon & Spa, one of the many salons and spas that dot the half-mile stretch of Cincinnati-Dayton Road between I-75 and West Chester Road in southeastern Butler County.

“The Boys & Girls Club is a marvelous addition to Olde West Chester because it’s not only good for that area but the club is also a philanthropic adventure to help area children who are less fortunate. West Chester Township is seen as a place of affluence but we have children who are less fortunate.”

The Lakota district, which serves both fast-growing West Chester and Liberty townships, has 20 percent of its students coming from families poor enough to qualify their children for free and reduced school meals.

Bridget Graber, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Club West Chester/Liberty, said “our mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens. With 20 percent of the children in the Lakota school district on free or reduced lunch, that means there are over 3,000 children in the community who need us most.”

Joe Hinson, president and chief executive officer of the West Chester & Liberty Chamber Alliance, said today’s club opening marks a new era for the region as it now sports the most modern youth facility in Ohio.

“It’s a special, new jewel in our community,” Hinson said. “It will be much greater than just a local draw (to Olde West Chester). Locally, our children need a place they can call their own – a safe and productive place where they can learn, grow, belong and forge their future. With the encouragement and support of our Lakota Schools, our Boys & Girls Club is becoming part of the fabric of our community.”

The club sits on the site of a former Lakota school and exists because of Lakota officials struck a deal with leaders of the local Boys & Girls Club to lease the site and cover the demolition costs in a regionally unique partnership.

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Short-term impact: More traffic

The club’s construction has coincided with an expansion of Cincinnati-Dayton Road through Olde West Chester, which will add turning lanes to ease its sometimes-congested rush-hour traffic.

Welsh said much of the road expansion is scheduled to be done in 2018.

The club’s opening is the latest among other nearby community projects designed to raise the profile of the once-underutilized highway interchange.

Near the club, high atop a hill on the other side of I-75, stands the Butler Tech Bioscience Center, which opened in 2015 and is the first of a planned, larger career tech campus designed to further enhance the growing health and medical service providers dotting the highway stretch through Butler County.

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The $16 million career school trains high school students for careers in healthcare as seen by Butler Tech and the numerous hospitals and health care providers, including West Chester Hospital, Atrium Medical Center, Christ Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Liberty Campus.

And the Cincinnati-Dayton Road area just north of the Boys & Girls Club will soon be the home of the 900-member New Life Chapel Church.

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The site will include 96,345 square feet of development built in three phases.

The first phase of construction, which is scheduled to be done later this year, will include a main church building and office facilities, amounting to about 78,420 square feet and 1,600 seats.

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