The future of Corridor 75 Logistics Park hangs on economic recovery

The approximately 430-acre business park, on Gateway Boulevard off Ohio 63, close to the Interstate 75 interchange, is intended for manufacturing, warehouse and distribution companies, such as its one tenant, the Home Depot Rapid Deployment Center.

“I think this is a great project. Unfortunately, we went through almost a three-year economic hardship that was not created by me, but created by forces that are beyond me and it’s culminated into an unfortunate situation,” said Rob Smyjunas, president and CEO of Vandercar Holdings, the park’s developer and owner of VH Monroe, the property owner.

The site holds approximately 300 acres of Monroe’s available industrial land and potential “considerable” job creation, according to the city.

The project received a tax incentive package for property tax abatements. It is in a Community Reinvestment Area, a Tax Increment Financing District and has a special assessment. It has a property tax exemption of 100 percent for 15 years on the increase in property taxes from new construction on qualified buildings, but the special assessment collects money to make bond payments financed by the Warren County Port Authority for the roads, retention ponds and other infrastructure.

The 15-year abatement begins when a business opens. Therefore, taxpayers haven’t lost any money for the project. Because the tax incentives are on increases in real property value, the full amount of taxes is still paid on the raw land.

But the tax package means from the beginning taxpayers won’t get any share of increases in property taxes out there for 15 years if new companies come or Home Depot adds property value.

The community benefits through income tax payments and job opportunities, said Kevin Chesar, Monroe director of development. 

Approximately 300 jobs have been created at Home Depot, according to the company, which generates income tax revenues for Monroe.

“I think because of the slow economy things just haven’t worked out as well as we thought it would. Everybody’s in the same boat,” said Monroe Vice Mayor Anna Hale.

In 2008, Vandercar started constructing two buildings close to the same time, a 657,600-square-foot building that’s now the Home Depot center and a 650,000-square-foot speculative building. At the time, it was the largest industrial construction project in Greater Cincinnati and plans called for 10 total buildings to carry 4,000 to 6,000 jobs. Smyjunas said the jobs depend how much manufacturing goes in the park and how much technology and equipment such as sorting machines and conveyor belts are used by businesses.

Home Depot opened August 2009 and the other building has been empty since it was completed in 2009. Nothing has moved in two years as a direct result of the economy, Smyjunas said.

Hale said realistically, the roughly 300 jobs that were created seems to be close to what she would expect in this economy.

“We can’t expect 4,000 new jobs when the whole state can’t expect 4,000 new jobs,” she said.

After a “nonexistent” 2010, a prospective building on site is a finalist for site selection by four companies, Smyjunas said.

Smyjunas said he is hoping for a loan modification to resolve his default with Huntington Bank. But he said he’s still pushing forward to pay off the bank. To do that, deals need to be reached, he said.

His company makes money from companies buying or building facilities at the site.

“We’re still in control of the project,” he said.

The logistics park was part of an original plot of approximately 800 acres of land on the Warren and Butler county lines in Monroe bought by a group of investors in 1996, said Lenny Robinson of Robinson Inc., Realtors in Middletown, one of the investors. The other investors are Greg Pratt, former Middletown commissioner and local lawyer, and the Murray Guttman family of Cincinnati, he said.

The first and largest piece of that was the approximately 430 acres sold October 2007 to Vandercar Holdings, Robinson said. A second piece was about 117 acres sold May 2008 to Chelsea Property Group for the development of Cincinnati Premium Outlets. The Corridor 75 Park Ltd. LLC investment group still owns the remaining approximately 180 acres.

“I think anybody who’s in real estate development has seen the effect of these rotten economic times,” Robinson said.

The Vandercar project started in 2008 before the economy hit and looking back, he said the company made some assumptions and he might not have built the second building at that time.

“Time will tell. Hopefully the economy is going through a short-term soft spot and we hope that we’re going to get a little business brightening in the fall,” Smyjunas said.

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

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