West Chester Twp. trustees are set to vote tonight onthe possible $1.8 million sale of the township’s Activity Center for a new Kroger Marketplace.
Kroger wants to build a giant new marketplace at Tylersville and Cox roads, and its landlord, Regency Centers, has offered to pay West Chester Twp. $1.8 million for the adjacent property.
Township Administrator Larry Burks would not comment on the potential sale before the meeting, but he recommended the trustees approve it in a memo.
“After much negotiation with Regency Centers Acquisition, a final Purchase and Sale Agreement was drafted that best protects township interests,” he wrote. “Staff requests the trustees approve the Purchase and Sale Agreement with Regency Centers Acquisition, LLC.”
Trustee Ann Becker was the only trustee prior to the meeting who would reveal her vote on the sale.
“I am voting yes for the sale of the Activity Center,” Becker said. “With the intention of focusing the use of the profits of the building toward rehabbing Muhlhauser Barn to give our seniors an opportunity to have services in one of our premiere park facilities.”
West Chester Plaza owner Regency Centers was the only group to submit a proposal for the Activity Center. The activity center acquisition would allow for a new 95,545-square-foot Kroger, and the grocery giant and retail center owners have even bigger plans to build a 117,166-square-foot Marketplace.
Trustee Board President Mark Welch previously told the Journal-News he favored the sale.
“We’re not indigent, we’re not in foreclosure, we don’t have to sell it, but the potential of adding about $1.8 million into the township’s general fund, what we’re looking at now is when it sells, how else can we use that money to benefit the township,” he said, adding the Activity Center is a “non-performing asset” and it could cost $100,000 to $130,000 to fix existing problems in the short-term.
Welch said Tuesday morning he hadn’t made up his mind yet.
“It’s fluid, I can’t speak for any of the other trustees, but I’m continuing to get information,” he said. “We’ll know tonight.”
Welch said the Muhlhauser Barn is an option for a new location for senior programming but because the structure isn’t insulated, retrofitting with heat and air conditioning might be cost prohibitive.
“It may be we can do HVAC on a portion of it and not the whole thing,” Welch said. “That’s just the old Muhlhauser Barn they disassembled stick by stick and rebuilt stick by stick. It would really be challenging to heat and cool the whole place. It would be like heating and cooling the atmosphere.”
Trustee Lee Wong could not be reached for comment.
Becker said if the sale goes through and the barn is a viable option, the township could ask Community First Solutions, the non-profit that runs the senior programming, to renew as a provider.
The issue began in January when several senior citizens implored the trustees to save their programming. They had heard the Community First lease was up at year’s end and would not be renewed.
Danielle Webb, Community First’s vice president of Marketing and Community Relations, said the organization recently had to reduce the hours of operation at the center to three days per week because the director of the Activity Center got a new job, knowing she would be out of work after December. She said early on they offered to renew the lease.
“We are open to discussion,” she said about continuing the program. “But that hasn’t been something we’ve been approached about.”
In order for the Kroger Marketplace to materialize there are a number of contingencies, probably the biggest is Regency must also purchase the Providence Bible Fellowship church and property from Chesterwood Village. Ryan Ertel with Regency Centers in his letter to the trustees that accompanied the original proposal, 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.
“It’s our unpretentious desire to upgrade this shopping center to a first-class retail destination so as to preserve Kroger’s presence at this location, enrich one of West Chester’s most discernible intersections, and afford our community with a new Kroger store and a fresh retail shopping experience — all while adding significant value to the tax base,” Ertel wrote.
Here are some of the concessions Regency Centers made at the township’s request:
• $50,000 in earnest money, up from a $15,000 deposit in the original offer
• The due diligence period was reduced from 18 months to 180 days, but three 90-day extensions can be requested at a cost of $50,000 each and those are potentially non-refundable under the terms of the deal
• Conditions were clarified on the right to terminate if Regency can’t secure the church property and a parcel from Chesterwood Village
It states if they are unable to secure the church property within 90 days, they can terminate the agreement with the township but the Chesterwood Village property — that is owned by Hillandale Family Communities, a senior care company with senior living and health care locations throughout the county — is not a deal breaker. 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.
A church official previously confirmed they “have a team of guys that are working on that” but would not comment further.
Ertel told the Journal-News he can’t comment at this time.