UDF plans to pump about $3 million into downtown site

MIDDLETOWN — The city’s downtown corridor could soon be host to a new United Dairy Farmers gas station and convenience store, according to local officials.

Planning Director Marty Kohler said UDF has filed paperwork to construct a 4,224 square foot building with 10 fuel pumps at the intersection of Manchester Avenue and Verity Parkway, where the Salvation Army once stood.

“We’ve been working with them for at least four years to make this happen, but we just couldn’t find the right location,” Kohler said. “They were able to get an option to purchase the former Salvation Army site, but it all hinges on them getting zoning approval.”

The company’s total investment will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million, with the new location employing somewhere between 15 and 20 employees, said Tim Kling, director of real estate for UDF.

The new UDF store is expected to come before Middletown Planning Commission on May 12 for conditional use approval as gas stations are not automatically permitted in the city’s urban core zone. Should commission members approve it, legislation granting the conditional use would then come before City Council as emergency legislation in early June, Kohler said.

“We’re asking for emergency, especially since we’ll have already gone through a public hearing approval on Planning Commission,” Kohler said.

Tim Kling, director of real estate for UDF, said the company’s existing downtown facility is “one of our smaller ones,” though he added it continues to see a significant amount of traffic.

“We’ve always liked the downtown area and have managed to do good business even with the smaller store,” Kling said. “We feel the gas component will be supported because of the amount of traffic on Verity Parkway.”

Kling did not have a firm date for the store to open, but said with construction likely getting underway late this year he would like to see it open prior to summer 2011.

Economic Development Director Mike Robinette said this project is a prime example of why demolishing “functionally obsolete or abandoned” buildings in the downtown area will be a successful venture for the city.

“When businesses like this are interested in coming in, we have options available for them to do that,” Robinette said. “If the property that had been on this site was still there, it probably changes the whole economics in terms of trying to do a project like this there.”

The new UDF development will give the city’s downtown corridor two major redevelopment projects at either end of Central Avenue, with a similar gas station and convenience store combination planned for the intersection of Central Avenue and University Boulevard.

Contact this reporter at (513) 705-2871 or at rgauthier@coxohio.com.