XENIA — The redevelopment of the former Kmart property in Towne Square is on hold.
The City of Xenia Tuesday indefinitely suspended the request for proposals (RFP) it issued last month, which were originally scheduled to be due Friday, March 20.
“In light of the current situation with COVID-19, we are aware some companies interested in responding to the RFP are focusing on their employees’ health and safety, as they should be,” said Xenia City Manager Brent Merriman. “Coupled with uncertainties in financial markets, we have made the decision to suspend the RFP.”
Merriman said this is a temporary, though indefinite, suspension, and the city does plan to move forward with the redevelopment of the property once the current situation has stabilized.
The city issued the RFP in February after parting ways with Brandicorp, a Kentucky-based developer that had entered into a never-executed purchase and sales agreement with Xenia in June 2016. Brandicorp proposed a $5 million shopping center with restaurants and retail, and the preliminary site plan called for two smaller buildings in front along West Main Street and one bigger building in the back, near where the Kmart building stood. As part of the project, Galloway Street would have been extended into the shopping center.
An issue with the Environmental Protection Agency, which was ultimately mitigated, caused some delay in the project, but Merriman said that didn’t cause the city to part ways with Brandicorp.
“We just weren’t seeing forward movement with any urgency,” Merriman said. “While we both had high expectations for the property, it has become apparent that those expectations were not going to be realized, so we have decided to move in a different direction.”
Xenia appeared to have a good plan prior to Brandicorp, with a proposed family entertainment center/movie theater. But that proposal — with Creative Entertainment Concepts and Genesis Development Partners — fell through due to lack of investors, Merriman said.
The concept, which included the vacant Fulmer building as well, was proposed to council and a purchase agreement was reached with Genesis. But about the same time, then-City Council members John Caupp and Dale Louderback disclosed that they had or planned to invest in the development and had accepted management positions with Creative Entertainment Concepts. Council convened an inquiry to see if the pair violated the city charter, which it ultimately decided had happened.
Caupp and Louderback never signed contracts with CEC, did not invest money, and were cleared by the Ohio Ethics Commission. The movie theater component was taken off the table by CEC due to lack of investors and although it wasn’t officially withdrawn, the entertainment center part of the plan has not moved forward.
Many blamed the inquiry for investors backing away and the project never coming to fruition. But Merriman said that’s not the case, saying a recession was mostly to blame.
“It’s just not accurate,” he said. “It was never a funded project. It was a concept that was floated. Given where the industry’s going I’m not sure it ever would have completely flown. It would have been a tough sell regardless of the inquiry process. I think it is unfair to suggest that the inquiry resulted in that project dying. We never got full financials that identified there was financing for a project, that it was viable.”
Once the city resumes the RFP process, any developer should be able to move quickly with the EPA issues gone.
“We have had a great deal of interest from several different developers, and we remain steadfast in our belief this is a desirable location for new retail development. We want to see a good product that fits into the historic mix of our downtown and the unique characteristics of the Towne Square,” Merriman said. “We believe there is still strong market demand for specialty retail and food service in the downtown area.”