The mega, $139 million Freedom Pointe development in Liberty Twp. that includes a new Costco got a boost from Butler County recently, with county commissioner approval of $6.6 million for a new road and sanitary sewer improvements.
The commissioners recently approved selling bonds and using $6.6 million in tax increment financing dollars to extend Veterans Boulevard, that will provide another access point off Ohio 129 to Liberty Way and serve the new the Freedom Pointe development. The mixed use project includes a 160,529 square-foot Costco, that is on target to open in October.
Freedom Pointe is a $139 million mixed use development by and in addition to the big box store it includes 402 apartments that will cater to empty-nesters and millennial professionals, office, medical, retail, restaurants and a hotel on the 88-acre site at the southern border of Liberty Twp. across Liberty Way from the Voice of America Metro Park in West Chester Twp.
County Engineer Greg Wilkens said Veterans Boulevard ties into the new roundabout under construction at Cox Road, as part of the $32.5 million “fix” to the tricky Liberty Way interchange at Ohio 129 and Interstate 75. The new road will provide motorists wanting to travel east to Mason a smooth route to Liberty Way and those who want to head south can just stay on Cox Road.
“You’re separating that traffic and that’s the advantage of having this additional road through there,” Wilkens said. “Otherwise they would both come onto Cox and Liberty Way and inundate that intersection which is already busy.”
The road is set to be completed in September, just prior to Costco opening in October. Dan Wheeler with one of the developers Henjur LLC, said construction on the Costco building is scheduled to start in May and open in five months. Agreements for another retail user are pending.
“Costco is the anchor, I’ve actually got three retail users but I can only put two of them in because we don’t have enough room,” Wheeler said. “We’re trying to decide which two are going to get the nod. All three are good credit, all three are users that people will be interested in.”
He said they are talking to two potential hotel users, they have a 25,000-square-foot medical use building and an 18,000-square foot retail strip “that we’ve got several tenants lined up for, but we haven’t mapped out the final design of the building yet.”
Governments routinely use TIF dollars to support economic development. Money is built up in the TIF as developments within the district come online and property values increase. County Administrator Judi Boyko said the commissioners agreed to use funds from the University Point TIF for a variety of reasons.
“The board of commissioners uses the proceeds from the University Pointe TIF sparingly to incentivize economic development projects,” Boyko said. “Freedom Pointe is proposing $140 million in value in commercial development and coupled with Costco, and prospectively a couple other first-to-market retailors, and the connection of Veterans Boulevard from Cox to Liberty Way does contribute a transportation value. The commissioners determined that incentivizing this project would be in the best interest of economic development and transportation improvements.”
Boyko said the TIF agreement provides if the project values aren’t enough to cover the debt payments, the developer is responsible for the shortfall. Of the $6.6 million about $3 million is to cover the debt payments until TIF dollars start rolling in.
Veterans Boulevard will have two roundabouts, one at one of the entrances to Costco and another farther north toward the Ohio 129 roundabout at Cox Road. The Liberty Way interchange improvement is underway and Wilkens secured $11.6 million in federal money to help pay for the $24 million project. The total project, that includes the Veterans Boulevard work and widening Liberty Way is $32.5 million.
The county also helped pay for infrastructure for the $350 million Liberty Center project up the road. Taxpayer dollars funded $49 million in bonds including a $12 million Ohio Water Development Authority loan. Liberty Twp. contributed about $6 million of that amount.
Liberty Twp. Trustee Tom Farrell said the Freedom Pointe developers didn’t ask the township to contribute anything to their project, but the use of TIF dollars for new developments is a good “compromise.”
“Obviously we would love for the developer to pay for every bit of the infrastructure and our taxpayers pay for none of it, and they want us to pay for all of it,” Farrell said. “This is a compromise that we work on in developments that allows us to use the money that’s going to be coming in from their developments to pay for the infrastructure.”
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