By Scott Halasz - shalasz@aimmediamidwest.com



XENIA — After two redevelopment projects were axed before they really started moving, the City of Xenia is hoping the third time is the charm for Towne Square.

Xenia recently sent out a request for proposal to developers who have an interest in acquiring and redeveloping the XX acres of city-owned land where the Kmart building once stood. City Manager Brent Merriman said the city is open to creative uses for the land but would like a good mix of market rate residential and retail.

Xenia appeared to have a good plan twice before, with a proposed family entertainment center and most recently

Family entertainment center

If everything stays on schedule, Merriman said the building would be demolished in March 2016. It has been vacant for more than a year and plans for a movie theater at the site fell through due to lack of investors. The city had negotiated a purchase agreement with Genesis Development Partners to help facilitate that project, but that agreement was terminated by emergency legislation on Nov. 12.

The city, which already owns the land, will pay $250,000 to acquire the building and will reimburse costs related to the redevelopment project with future bond and/or note proceeds.

City Council voted 5-0 to sell approximately 5.62 acres of land in the Xenia Towne Square for $1 to Genesis Development Partners, which will then help facilitate the demolition of the former Kmart building to make way for the theater.

“This is the first of critical steps required to initiate the development of the site,” City Manager Brent Merriman said. “This is an important first domino.”

The theater is part of a major redevelopment of the shopping center, which will also include a family entertainment center in the former Fullmer building next to the Kmart building. The project is estimated to cost $7.5 million.

City Councilmen John Caupp and Dale Louderback recused themselves from the vote and left the council chambers during discussions. They previously disclosed to council that they had or planned to invest in the development and had accepted management positions with Creative Entertainment Concepts, the development company. The city is investigating whether they violated the city charter by doing so and the state ethics commission could also weigh in on the matter.

While the land is worth much more, city staff recommended the sale price to make the project feasible. However the city is protected in that there are several requirements that must be met before the sale is finalized.

The eight-page real estate purchase contract stipulates that the city and Genesis must enter into a tax increment financing agreement, which includes Xenia Community Schools, and that Genesis should have a binding development agreement with “a third party entity acceptable to the city” for purchase of part of the property for the demolition of the current building and the construction of the theater. It is believed that High Velocity Entertainment, part of CEC, will develop the theater.

If completed, the theater would be an eight-screen, state of the art facility and could open the first part of 2016. The family entertainment center — which could be open this fall — will contain a bowling alley, arcade, laser tag and a bar and grill.

2015 —

The idea of an entertainment center was broached last year. In August, the city authorized Merriman to enter into an agreement with Creative Entertainment Concepts in Indianapolis to do a feasibility study at the vacant Fulmer grocery store in Xenia Towne Square. The city owns the land and has long-term leases with building owners.

On Sept. 5, CEC executed a 10-year lease with Fulmer building owner R&B Investments with the intention of moving forward with turning the location into an entertainment center.

Also in September, another contract was approved for a similar study to potentially bring a movie theater where Kmart was located. That $10,000 contract brought the city’s total investment to $25,000.

CEC proposed a bowling alley, laser tag, an arcade, and sports bar, which would include outdoor seating, for the nearly 30,000 square foot Fulmer building, vacant since July 2010. The K-mart building would be razed and an an eight-screen, state-of-the-art theater with seating for 1,100 would be constructed.

In February councilmen John Caupp and Dale Louderback announced that they would be investing in the project and were hired by the management company with Caupp serving as general manager and Louderback serving as theater operations director. Both said they would excuse themselves from further project discussions and votes in order to eliminate any conflicts of interest. However, the city did refer the situation to the Ohio Ethics Commission — which has yet to make any public comment — and is looking into whether the pair violated the city charter.

In April, council approved the sale of 5.62 acres of Towne Square for $1 to Genesis Development Partners, which would then purchase and help facilitate the demolition of Kmart to make way for theater. The eight-page real estate purchase contract stipulates that the city and Genesis must enter into a tax increment financing (TIF) agreement, which includes Xenia Community Schools, and that Genesis should have a binding development agreement with “a third party entity acceptable to the city” for purchase of part of the property for the demolition of the current building and the construction of the theater.

The contract has yet to be executed, Merriman said. Other conditions, according to Merriman, include site plan and tenant mix approval.

CEC is still trying to capitalize the project before it can begin work. David Beauregard, CEO of Creative Entertainment Concepts could not be reached for an update on the project’s status and the potential involvement of Caupp and Louderback.

There are some challenges with regards to the movie theater, Merriman said. A major investor and management company have withdrawn from the project which set back the entire project. Also, CEC no longer has an active role in the theater discussion, according to Merriman.

Genesis partner Jeff Piatt would not comment on project specifics other than to say his company is still “100 percent” involved and “100 percent” excited.

——-Creative Entertainment Concepts from Indianapolis came to Xenia City Council with a plan on how to use the vacant Fulmer grocery store building in Towne Square. David Beauregard proposed a family entertainment center and later hinted that a movie theater could occupy the vacant K-mart building.

In early 2015 councilmen John Caupp and Dale Louderback announced they accepted management positions with the entertainment center and theater and were planning on investing personal money in the project. That led city council to ponder whether the pair violated the city charter since they participated in past discussions about the project and they could benefit financially.

Council sent the case to the Ohio Ethics Commission and in July launched its own inquiry into the alleged actions. At the end of the three day inquiry, council voted that the pair did violate the city charter, but stopped short of vacating their council positions. Instead, Caupp and Louderback received public reprimand.

During the council meetings leading up to the inquiry, many residents spoke on behalf of the pair. Council chambers and the nearby courtroom was packed with residents during the inquiry.

Caupp and Louderback never signed contracts with CEC and did not invest money. The movie theater component was taken off the table by CEC due to lack of investors. The entertainment center, while still a go, was delayed as well. It is slated to open sometime in the fall, according to Xenia resident Dede Larson, who has become an investor in the project.

Louderback and Caupp subsequently declined the employment but were found to have violated the Xenia City Charter by council after an inquiry into their alleged activities.

According to a letter dated Aug. 9 obtained by the Xenia Gazette through a public records request, the commission met Aug. 1 and determined its “investigation found insufficient evidence to support violation of any ethics laws. The investigation found that Louderback and Caupp did not accept the positions offered by Creative Entertainment Concepts (CEC).”

Brandicorp

shiny new $5 million shopping center with restaurants and retail to go along with the sparkling new city administration building a few blocks away. The city is partnering with Kentucky-based Brandicorp, Inc., to make it happen.

“I think it’s a rebirth,” City Manager Brent Merriman said after the excavating equipment took down the facade. “It’s a signal that city leadership is going to fulfill its commitment and its promises (for image enhancement and new services).”

The building was constructed in the late 1970s, expanded to 24,000 square feet in 1989 and ultimately closed in 2014. In a state of disrepair, it had major roof and interior water damage and was becoming an eyesore.

A previous redevelopment plan for the site and the adjacent Fulmer Grocery Store — which was to include a family entertainment center and movie theater — fell through after the previous developer pulled out. Brandicorp — which has developed other mixed-use retail sites in Ohio — stepped in earlier this year and entered into a purchase agreement with the city for $800,000.

Brandicorp developer Bill Martin said the company hopes to begin construction next summer.

“We’ve submitted our vision of what the thing should be,” he said.

The preliminary site plan calls for two smaller buildings in front along West Main Street and one bigger building in the back, near where the K-mart building stood. As part of the project, Galloway Street would be extended into the shopping center.

The city late last year (2015) purchased the building for approximately $250,000 in order to obtain complete site control over its redevelopment after plans for a movie theater in conjunction with a still-pending family entertainment center fell through. The city already owned the 5.26-acre plot of land.

A request for proposal was sent out in December and Brandicorp and Schueler Group sent in proposals. Brandicorp plans to invest approximately $5 in the project, which would have a mix of retail and restaurants.

According to city documents, Schueler Group, based in Lebanon, “largely recycled the former plan developed by Genesis with the help of the city” while Brandicorp provided a “more original” detailed and realistic development plan.

“Both firms are highly qualified developers,” said City Planning Director Brian Forschner. “Brandicorp’s past experience was more comparable to what we were looking for.”

Located in Bellevue, Ky., Brandicorp was the developer of the Marriott Courtyard in Norwood; Stone Creek Towne Center in Colerain Township; and Houston Shoppes in Florence, Ky. It currently has projects underway in Montgomery and Fort Mitchell, Ky., according to its website.

By Scott Halasz

shalasz@aimmediamidwest.com

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.