Shoppers pack Liberty Center for opening day


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Ashton Petrie, Trenton:

“I came when Dillard’s first opened, but I was really excited to see all the other stores, especially Lush,” Petrie said. “They have a lot of stores that the other malls don’t offer.”

John Miller, Fairfield Twp.:

“I live close, so I’ve been watching since it started,” Miller said. “So far it looks good.”

Greg and Morgan Colley, Fairfield:

“It’s so big,” Morgan Colley said. “There are places here you find in Newport and Kenwood. You don’t have to drive so far.”

“The indoor-outdoor, it’s multi-layered. Just wait until we see the place on Black Friday,” Greg Colley said.

Joe and Kathy Bayer, West Chester Twp.:

“We’ve been here about half an hour and I’m blown away already,” Joe Bayer said. “From what I’ve seen, it’s going to be a hit.”

“I can’t wait until the luxury theater opens,” Kathy Bayer said. There “are a lot of different retail outlets but some familiar ones (too).”

The “game-changing” Liberty Center development is now open for business in Butler County.

The opening fulfills more than five years of planning and development for the approximately $350 million mixed office, retail and residential development in Liberty Twp. on Liberty Way.

It is believed to be one of the largest developments in Butler County history with the potential to create about 3,500 new full- and part-time jobs once full occupancy is reached by 2018, according to local government officials.

“Now is the beginning of the real life at Liberty Center,” said Yaromir Steiner, founder and chief executive officer of Liberty Center developer Steiner + Associates, during a ribbon cutting ceremony held this morning.

The property’s use of public areas, and mixed density such as office space atop of retail incorporates lessons learned over the years from Steiner’s prior town center developments such as Easton of the Columbus area and The Greene in Beavercreek, Steiner officials have said.

Liberty Center’s first phase now open will have more than 1 million square feet spread over about 65 acres, but Steiner + Associates owns more land for future phases of development, as well as more room within the existing phase for more infill development.

“We were able to do everything we’ve learned,” Steiner said.

Construction has lasted over a year and is now about 95 percent complete with additional work to be done to finish some yet-to-open tenant spaces, Steiner said.

Anchor tenants Dillard’s department store and Dick’s Sporting Goods opened for business earlier this month. Other restaurants and retailers to join them today include Old Navy, The Cheesecake Factory, Brio Tuscan Grille, Build-A-Bear, Celebrate Local and more.

“Any tenant of this size in the industry typically has rolling openings and we’re no different than that,” said Kevin Cedik, Liberty Center’s general manager. “We have places opening November, December, and going into spring.”

There were no traffic backups entering the site mid-day but deputies were prepared for traffic to increase after work today, said Lt. Morgan Dallman, division commander in Liberty Twp. for the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.

“We don’t expect traffic to become more of a challenge until later in the day when people start getting off work and that’s probably when we’re going to add more manpower,” Dallman said.

Deputies are stationed at nearby traffic lights along Liberty Way and will be operating the lights as needed, he said.

“We expect there to possibly be more of challenge with traffic tomorrow afternoon and throughout the day on Saturday,” Dallman said.

Butler County Commissioner Cindy Carpenter on Thursday called the Liberty and West Chester township area the county’s most dynamic growth area.

Liberty Center is an attraction and destination that gives Butler County a turn to reap tax revenues that residents and area shoppers might have spent elsewhere at other retail centers such as Kenwood Towne Centre, said fellow Commissioner Don Dixon.

“This will be a destination point for people outside of Butler County,” Dixon said.

In fact, estimates are Liberty Center will attract 60,000 to 70,000 out-of-region visitors a year who spend money shopping and buy hotel rooms, contributing to local government coffers, said Mark Hecquet, executive director of the Butler County Visitor’s Bureau.

“Most importantly, they’ll come, they’ll like what they see… and tell other people,” Hecquet said.

Town center management planned events at the center such as On-the-Go Eats featuring food trucks parked throughout the center until 8 p.m. Thursday; Games on the Square such as life-sized Candy Land, Jenga and Chutes and Ladders until 4 p.m.; Kids fun in the Park such as face painting, photos with The Cupcake Girls, magicians, balloon sculptors and more also until 4 p.m.; and Live music by The Chuck Taylors at the Square from 6 to 10 p.m.

The Square and The Park are two of the public greenspaces located at Liberty Center, according to center management.

Shopper Ashton Petrie, 26, of Trenton, said she is excited for more stores to open.

“I came when Dillard’s first opened, but I was really excited to see all the other stories, especially Lush,” Petrie said. “They have a lot of stores that the other malls don’t offer.”

Brookstone, a gift and gadget store, opened for customers today but is still accepting job applications for two to three part-time seasonal associates, according to store manager Sasha Snyder. Whether Brookstone stays open past the holidays probably depends on sales, Snyder said.

Located on the upper level inside The Foundry, Liberty Center’s enclosed mall on the property, Brookstone sells app-controlled games, massage products and other items for “people that have everything,” Snyder said.

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