State transportation officials and Warren County planners are doing final reviews of plans for the first section of Union Village, a 1,400-acre, 4,500-home new urbanist community between Springboro and Mason on Ohio 741.
By next spring, the 30.5 acre first phase, including a four-story commercial building, should be under construction across from the oldest building on Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices’ main retirement campus.
Otterbein’s headquarters will anchor the new town center, to be built across Ohio 741 from 200-year-old Marble Hall, once the center of activity for a 4,000-acre Shaker community.
A handful of “destination” restaurants are to be part of the town center, drawing visitors and driving excitement about the new community, said Bob Turner, who lives Habersham, S.C., another new urbanist community he has developed.
Another commercial strip also designed to remind visitors of a bygone era of quaint, walkable downtowns, will frame the town center, expected to serve residents of the retirement community and new development, as well as draw visitors and tourists.
“You really have the character of the old town,” Turner said.
Last month, the Union Village New Community Authority approved the plans, conditional on approvals from the Ohio Department of Transportation and Warren County Regional Planning Commission.
The authority will function much as a homeowners association for a condominium community or subdivision. It also enables the development company set up by Otterbein to be reimbursed for about $8 million spent on demolition, roads and other infrastructure through special assessments paid by property owners and property taxes set aside through a taxing district.
Eventually, roundabouts are planned on the north and south ends of the development on Ohio 741, to calm traffic nearing Union Village.
Last week, ODOT and county officials indicated they were still studying plans for the first phase, designed by Turner’s firm, and including three intersections at the state route and across from roads leading into the Otterbein campus.
“The goal is to make a walkable neighborhood (crossing the state route). We’ve got to balance that with moving traffic,” Turner said. “We’re trying to make an intersection where people will cross the street.”
Ultimately visitors and residents will be able to travel from the town center, across the property by interior roads or paths to the sports park being developed on 109-acres off Ohio 741 and Greentree Road.
“Everything, is connected together, all in the neighborhood,” he said.
Locals wonder how this can happen on a busy two-lane state route.
Turner said the solution was in spreading the traffic within the development and along multiple access roads onto Ohio 741 and Ohio 63, the other main route bordering the property, east of Interstate 75.
“You form a grid system that alleviates a lot of the traffic,” he said.
In addition to the commercial center, the first phase is to include 89 homes, four apartment buildings and seven town homes, all developed using the design principles associated with new urbanism.
Lebanon’s historic downtown and Mariemont, a planned community in the Cincinnati area, were used for “historical precedent,” Turner explained.
“It’s quite different from other development being done,” he added. “It’s something we’ve done in other places that’s been successful.”
Assuming the state and county approvals are forthcoming, Turner said some of the homes and the town center should under construction this time next year.