New streetscape kicks off Warren County fairgrounds redevelopment

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Warren County Fairgrounds Redevelopment

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

After three years, redevelopment of former racetrack moving forward

The newspaper began covering the legalization of racinos in Ohio and ramifications for cities that lost horse racing businesses in the process even before the first racino began operating in Ohio in 2013. We will continue to cover racinos and economic redevelopment efforts in cities including Lebanon.

Warren County has begun spending as much as $5 million set aside for redevelopment of the county fairgrounds, but millions more are expected to be needed to finish the job.

The $111,647 streetscape is the first in a series of projects designed to make up for the loss of the Lebanon Raceway, which left town in December 2013, after the legalization of racinos in Ohio.

This week, the stone columns in a new streetscape were taking shape in front of the fairgrounds on Broadway in downtown Lebanon.

“Everything is starting to come together,” said Commissioner Pat South.

South has been a leader of efforts to plot the redevelopment, begun three years ago, before the raceway became part of the Miami Valley Gaming racino off the Ohio 63 interchange of Interstate 75.

After much debate, Lebanon and the county are to split up to $3 million set aside by the state. The city has already committed most of its money, primarily to the development of a new LCNB Corp. administrative center on Broadway, south of the fairgrounds.

Warren County also has $3 million committed by the racino operators, as well as $500,000 paid by the past proprietors of the raceway.

Still the funding is expected to fall short of covering all the needed repairs.

“The money doesn’t go as far as the projects we have,” South said.

The commissioners and staff are working with the county agricultural society, better known as the fair board. While the county owns the 100-acre property, the fair board dictates what goes on there.

Fair board officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Still in process is a lease with the fair board spelling out authority and responsibility for the development and grounds. The county is also negotiating purchase or a trade with the Carlo family, leaving a 7-acre parcel in the middle of the fairgrounds in county ownership.

Meanwhile the county and fair board have developed a list of projects ranging from likely demolition of the grandstands, to barn expansions and renovations, to paving. The projects are designed to position the fairgrounds as an exposition center for equestrian and other events.

The Ohio Development Services Agency will review the projects, once an application has been made, according to Stephanie Gostomski, a public information officer for the agency.

This week, masons were forming columns to stand between wrought iron fencing to run the length of the fairgrounds frontage. The columns are to extend from a stone entrance, dedicated in 1946.

The grandstand demolition is still under discussion, South said.

“Discussion is leaning very strong for demolition,” South said, adding this is part of final negotiations of the fairgrounds lease. “We are almost there.”

The fairgrounds streetscape is also designed to connect it with downtown Lebanon along the city’s Broadway Corridor.

Economic development, through a corporate office or business, such as a microbrewery were proposed.

“That’s just not panning out,” South said, although the south side could still be redeveloped for such a purpose.

South is retiring at the end of 2016, before the fairgrounds redevelopment will be complete. The state funding is available through 2017.

“I was certainly hoping this project would be done before I left office,” she said. “It just didn’t happen.”