West Chester Twp. trustees on Tuesday unanimously approved the $1.8 million sale of the township’s Activity Center that houses senior programming to clear the way for a giant Kroger Marketplace.
West Chester Plaza owner Regency Centers was the only group to submit a proposal for the Activity Center. The acquisition would allow for a new 95,545-square-foot Kroger to replace an existing location, and the grocery giant and retail center owners have even bigger plans to build a 117,166-square-foot Marketplace if other pieces come together.
“We’ll get a brand new Kroger, expanded shopping opportunities and a reinvestment from Regency and our community,” said Trustee Ann Becker. “The community itself will be able to have funds to invest possibly in another property, the Muhlhauser Barn, or use the money from the sale to invest in other areas of the community.”
Regency submitted the proposal on July 11, and the timetable at the time called for a July 2022 opening. There were delays as the township negotiated the sale. Ryan Ertel, senior leasing agent at Regency, said while many pieces still need to fall into place, such as other property purchases, the project is on track.
A new lease with Kroger is another obvious requirement. The grocery giant has paused some Butler County projects, like the Kyles Station location in Liberty Twp., but Ertel said he is confident that won’t happen with the Cox Road project.
“Kroger has been a tenant in the shopping center for several decades, and for the last 12 years, I’ve been working with Kroger to right-size the store,” Ertel said. “There’s a history here of over 10 years of them wanting to expand the store. So I think that’s the goal and I have heard nothing differently from them that they’ve changed directions.”
Trustee Lee Wong told the Journal-News the sale was a good move in many respects.
“The population has increased in that area and they needed a bigger Kroger and then they are going to tear down the old Kroger, that is a good thing,” Wong said.
In order for the Kroger Marketplace to materialize, Regency must also purchase the Providence Bible Fellowship church and property from Chesterwood Village.
The agreement states that if Regency is unable to secure the church property within 90 days, it can terminate the agreement with the township. After 90 days, the agreement can’t be terminated unless something adverse is discovered during the due diligence period, there is an issue with zoning or Kroger won’t sign a lease. The Chesterwood land buy is not a deal breaker.
A church official previously confirmed it has “a team of guys that are working on that” but would not comment further. Ertel said they haven’t closed that deal yet but “discussions are going well and I think both parties are working in good faith to figure it out.”
The township is looking into retrofitting the basement of the Muhlhauser Barn with HVAC for the senior programming. Trustee Board President Mark Welch said officials don’t have cost estimates yet, but they could take proceeds from the sale of one nonperforming asset and enhance another.
“The way I justify any expense which would include fixing up the Muhlhauser Barn, if it’s $500,000 to fix that space up, then that’s a space that everybody can use,” he said. “If there is programming available and the seniors want to be involved with that programming I think that programming should come from a local non-profit.”
All three trustees appear to be in agreement on fixing up the barn basement so it can be used by the community as a whole.
Township spokeswoman Barb Wilson said senior programming will continue in the Activity Center until Oct. 17 when Community First Solutions told the township it will end services. She said several activities, fitness programs, chair volleyball and the West Chester Symphony, have already moved to Chesterwood Village.
“In the next couple of weeks, West Chester will evaluate several options for what might be an interim solution and a more long-term solution to provide spaces for seniors to gather for fellowship, playing games, etc.,” Wilson said. “It may not be ideal and there may not be one single solution; but there will more likely be multiple options and spaces that provide activity center members with space to gather for fellowship, especially in the short term.”
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.