West Chester approves another deal for large new Kroger Marketplace

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

West Chester Twp. trustees cleared the way for a giant Kroger Marketplace at Cox and Tylersville roads in a $1.9 million deal with a $200,000 guarantee against the grocery giant reneging again.

The trustees voted unanimously Tuesday evening to approve the sale of the old Activity Center on Cox Road. The township and Kroger are expected to close on the deal within the next 104 days, officials said.

Trustee Mark Welch told the Journal-News this was the very best outcome for the township and its residents after several failed attempts — one of them was Kroger — to unload the building that once housed the library.

“A lot of times you have to kiss a lot frogs before you find the prince,” Welch said. “Kroger ended up coming through, the credo for real estate is highest and best use, and I think that we attained that at the township level. This is a win-win, it’s a win for the township for the property tax valuation, it’s a win for the residents and it’s a win for Kroger.”

Part of the reason other offers have fallen through is the condition of the building. But because Kroger doesn’t need the structure, Ryan Ertel, who has been brokering the deal for Kroger and their landlord Regency Centers, told the Journal-News he doesn’t see any reason why this time the purchase won’t come to fruition.

“It’s a Kroger redevelopment, that building is not needed so the issues that tanked the other deals the township was working on shouldn’t come into play here,” Ertel said.

Kroger offered no explanation when it terminated their first offer at the height of the pandemic in August 2020, however the trustees told the Journal-News the giant grocer wanted the township to foot the bill for major roadwork that will be needed for the redeveloped store.

The township also had a nearly identical offer on the table from Dr. Mohamed Aziz —the same purchase price and $200,000 nonrefundable earnest money — but his was a lease/purchase proposal. Aziz walked away once before too after the trustees refused to drop the price. He offered a flat $1.9 million to purchase it in April but backed out after inspecting the property, and he wanted about $300,000 shaved off the price because of some required upgrades like sprinklers.

He reappeared this fall after Illinois-based Quattro Development cancelled its $2.25 million offer in November. It also wanted a $400,000 price drop after closer inspection of the property they intended to transform into a Montessori School for their client Guidepost.

Another deal fizzled in July. The trustees were set to approve an agreement with a local family to create an event center but the offer was rescinded because financing failed for the $2.3 million offer.

The Activity Center came into play after Community First Solutions stopped providing senior programming in 2019. Shortly after, the township agreed to sell the building for $1.8 million to Regency Centers for the Kroger Marketplace. That turned out to be a two-year debacle with Kroger resurfacing several times but no deal was done.

The previous deal was contingent on Regency Centers being able to acquire the Activity Center, the Providence Bible Fellowship church, a parcel from Chesterwood Village and easements and agreements with about 10 other property owners to complete the complicated deal.

Ertel told the Journal-News the previous agreements with the other entities expired so they will be going back to table with them now that the deal with the township is all but sealed.

“Everything expired during COVID so there’s some conversations that will have to take place and we’ll need to reengage some folks,” Ertel said. “We’ll start those conversations very quickly.”

Butler County Commissioner Don Dixon told the Journal-News when they sold Chesterwood — the sale went through in May — they retained the property Kroger needs.

Church officials could not be reached for comment, but they have relocated to the Morning Star Baptist Church location on Summerhill Drive in West Chester. The county auditor’s website shows Providence purchased the property for $2 million Feb. 26, 2020.

“There could be some modifications, a lot of time has obviously passed, those are some things we’ll need to be looking at over the next several weeks,” Ertel said of the Kroger plans.

The original plan called for a new 95,545-square-foot Kroger to replace the existing location along Tylersville Road. The grocery giant and retail center owners had bigger plans to build a 117,166-square-foot Marketplace if the other pieces came together.

“This better be the last dance with Kroger, I’m tired of it, if it was up to me no, it’s over,” West Chester Twp. Trustee Lee Wong said previously.

The vote needed to be unanimous, and it was.

“I think it is best for the township. We waited, the right moment to sell it,” Wong said of the approved offer. “This will bring revenue to the tax base for West Chester.”

In the beginning officials said redeveloping the 30-year-old store site would triple property values and increase the tax bill from $169,000 to more than $500,000 annually and double the plaza footprint to about 20 acres.

Wong said they haven’t decided what to do with the money from the sale but all three said previously it likely could be used to install a roundabout in that area.

Welch said they will put the money to good use.

“We’ll get $1.9 million that this township, this board is going to do something really marvelous with,” Welch said. “We don’t take it and keep it and put it in our pockets we take it and we spend on things like roundabouts and things like that.”

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