New life expected for Liberty Twp.

‘Just houses and farmlands’ may soon become boom town.

They said they expect Liberty Town Square to make the township the next hot spot for growth in the Cincinnati/Dayton corridor, and the growth will be the likes of which haven’t been seen since the development over the past 10 years of the Union Centre Boulevard/Interstate 75 interchange in West Chester Twp.

Some worry the growth will overpopulate the township and crowd the already-large Lakota School District.

“I’ve heard people who are not familiar with Liberty Twp. pretty much think it’s just houses and farmlands,” said AnneMarie Daniel, a Comey & Shepherd real estate agent in Liberty Twp.

“I think it will wake people up to Liberty Twp. as a viable place to live,” she said. “My only concern: Is this going to affect taxes or the cost to build homes to make things happen?”

Liberty Town Square is planned for about 100 acres bordered by Ohio 129 to the north, the Liberty Way connector and Interstate 75 to the east, and Liberty Way to the south. It’s the only project of its size on the county’s books.

Hotels and strip retail centers are expected to abound in the area close to the site. David Fehr, Butler County development director, said he wouldn’t be surprised to see followers start construction as soon as Steiner + Associates does, to be ready when the site opens.

“I think what’s going to happen is there’s going to be some spin-off activity east of Liberty Way,” Fehr said. “It’s the interstate, and everybody wants to be by the interstate.”

These projects are attracted to the interstate to draw people from outside the region, access Hamilton doesn’t have, Fehr said. And the Ohio 122/I-75 Middletown exit sits in the Warren County part of the city.

The Liberty Way interchange with I-75 and Ohio 129 was completed in 2009. It unlocked 600 acres of developable land in both Liberty and West Chester townships, said Caroline McKinney, Liberty Twp.’s economic development director. When the economy put Steiner’s project temporarily on hold until recently, little activity happened.

“We have a sense that people are really waiting to watch what happens to Steiner,” McKinney said. “I have a feeling there’s a number of people hovering around to find out what’s happening.”

Fehr said he gets calls from retailers, builders, landscapers and others wanting to know the latest on Steiner, when it’s going to start and how to get a piece of the business. Liberty Twp. would also like to see a medical office corridor spring up along Cox Road north of Liberty Way, McKinney said.

However, at this point no building permits have been requested in either township in the area, the government officials said.

Great Traditions Land & Development Co. of Cincinnati owns approximately 40 open acres at the intersection of Liberty Way and Cox Road in West Chester Twp. and another approximately 25 acres of single-family housing at Preserve of Wetherington. Zoning for the land open for commercial development allows for construction of retail strip centers, office buildings, restaurants or a health institution. That’s all possible, but the development will depend on market demands, said Thomas Humes, Great Traditions president and chief executive officer.

“The marketplace will be the determination of when we move forward with that,” Humes said. “I think the Steiner project will help all of the surrounding area because it’s a major project that will be done on a very high-quality scale. I think it will help raise the demand and the value of all of the properties that are located around it. It may take some time for that to occur because, obviously, it’s a very big development.”

Steiner expects construction to start by the end of the year or early 2013. A final agreement among Steiner, county commissioners and Liberty Twp. trustees on property tax incentives continues to be hammered out.

The first phase of Liberty Town Square calls for 1 million square feet, at an estimated $300 million, to open in 2014. There will be department stores as anchors, movie theaters, condos and apartments.

About 3,000 construction jobs and roughly 4,500 permanent jobs would be created, as well as $1 million to $1.5 million a year in sales tax collections, according to Steiner.

Robin and Bill Geier of Liberty Twp. live and run a chiropractic business on Liberty Way in the area slated for Steiner. Lakota Chiropractic and Massage Therapy has been there about 11 years.

“Really, it’s more business for us,” Robin Geier said. “I’m excited to have some place to walk around, but I know we won’t be here forever. It’s only a matter of time until someone wants our land.”

Development in Fairfield Twp. around Bypass Ohio 4, Ohio 129 and Princeton Road happened at once, said township Administrator Michael Rahall.

First the regional highway was finished, then came Wal-Mart and Home Depot, he said. Among other examples, Target was the first store to open at Bridgewater Falls Lifestyle Shopping Center in 2004, and Menards opened last year.

“It’s safe to say that Bridgewater brought people into the area that wouldn’t otherwise be here and that has helped the other businesses,” Rahall said. “The one thing that’s clear is when 129 came in, that’s when the development started in general.”

West Chester Twp. identified land for commercial and retail use along Liberty Way and around the intersection of Liberty Way and Cox Road. “The plan’s in place, it’s just a matter of when that’s going to happen,” said Mike Juengling, West Chester Twp. community development director.

Township officials said that, regardless, significant development has been seen across Cox Road.

Contact this reporter at (513) 705-2551 or clevingston@coxohio.com.

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