This West Chester I-75 interchange will look different this year, and other township projects for 2021

Landscaping for the new $20 million Union Centre Boulevard diverging diamond interchange at Interstate 75 is one of many projects West Chester Twp. officials plan to tackle in 2021.
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Landscaping for the new $20 million Union Centre Boulevard diverging diamond interchange at Interstate 75 is one of many projects West Chester Twp. officials plan to tackle in 2021.

Credit: Submitted

West Chester Twp. officials say creating quality of life enhancements is at the core of goals for 2021, to help the community get past the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic.

Likely the biggest potential project on the list, is building an addition on the library to create gathering space for seniors, teens and other community groups. The township owns the library at Union Centre Blvd. and the MidPointe Library system runs the facility. Before the coronavirus pandemic gripped the world, seniors who had been displaced from the former Activity Center began meeting there.

Trustee Ann Becker said her top priority for this year is to re-create space for the community’s use.

“We thought it might be a good cooperation with the library system and several other non-profits to create a space that would be multifunctional,” Becker said. “To give more space to the community to do non-profit work, outreach work and just general high quality of life time.”

There are some concrete plans for the year such as landscaping the new diverging diamond interchange at Union Centre Boulevard and Interstate 75. Plans are still in the works but a very preliminary price tag is around $3 million. The township used tax increment financing (TIF) money to pay for the $20 million interchange and will use that funding source for the land and streetscaping project.

Becker said there are two other important road projects, roundabouts are going to be installed on Butler Warren Road at Barret Road and another at West Chester Road.

“Folks on the eastern side of the township know Butler Warren can be a bit of a bear to travel on and hopefully these two roundabouts will make it safer and quicker to get around,” Becker said.

The township was prepared to sell the former Activity Center — where seniors and other groups used to congregate — on Cox Road for $1.8 million last year, clearing the way for a giant Kroger Marketplace. The deal between Kroger and its landlord Regency Centers was stalled last year by COVID and the sale was cancelled.

ExploreTop stories of 2020: New I-75 interchange, police department issues highlight year in West Chester Twp.

Township Administrator Larry Burks said the property is on his to-do list for this year, along with evaluating all properties the township owns. He said they need to make sure they are maximizing the use of all their holdings. He said the dormant building must still be maintained and it would probably be best to prepare the site for future sale, “we really can’t sit on the building forever.”

“I do think if we put a little time and effort and contract out the deconstruction of that building and have a clean building site, that might help spark a few other interested parties,” Burks said. “Then maybe someone will get antsy and anxious about it going away and then maybe Kroger or Regency will buy it.”

Trustee Lee Wong said he wants to enhance outdoor opportunities for people like establishing a Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA), like several other communities have, and creating more recreational pathways.

“There is a very high demand in walking paths, there are so many people out there nowadays because of pandemic,” Wong said. “We need to finish a lot of these non-connected walking paths or bike paths, that is very important.”

The trustees nixed a proposal to apply for a federal grant in 2018 to participate in the proposed $17.8 million — an estimated $13.6 million would be the township’s estimated share — plan to build a multi-modal trail through the township, connecting an existing Great Miami River trail network to the Little Miami River trail system.

Trustee Mark Welch said he wants to make sure they are very careful when talking about spending money on things that are outside the township’s core responsibilities of providing fire and police protection and building and maintaining roads.

“We’re always with a mind for being fiscally responsible, not spending things foolishly,” Welch said. “It’s my personal belief if there is any large project that would come up that would be financed by the township, if it’s within the core competencies then it should be a vote by the people.”

The replacement $3.1 million Station 73 firehouse under construction on Duff Drive is also slated for completion this summer. Burks said the project is going to modernize and upgrade the township hall. A small pocket park in Olde West Chester will also be completed this year.

Officials also mentioned doing what they can to help their community get through the pain of the pandemic. Wong said they want to make sure they find ways to promote “an active summer in a safe manner” returning to all the festivals and other events COVID cancelled.

“My greatest prayer for 2021 is we stop living in this heightened fear and anxiety and move to more of a place of hope,” Welch said.