Sunday, May 05, 2002

Retail development blooms in suburb

County leaders push Bypass 4 widening

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FAIRFIELD TWP. — Though no improvements are scheduled any time soon for a major artery in this rapidly expanding suburb, retail development isn't waiting.

        A Wal-Mart store that opened in March on the southwest corner of Ohio Bypass 4 and Princeton Road, just north of the Butler County Regional Highway, already is planning to expand into a “super-store” to sell groceries. Another 183,000 square feet of retail development could rise nearby.

        The 149,551-square-foot Wal-Mart building will grow by 25,000 square feet when it becomes a super-store.

        “We'll be the first super center in Cincinnati,” store co-manager Eddie Blackmon said.

        Wal-Mart officials are holding off on setting a date until a company warehouse distribution center opens in the area to ship fresh food, assistant manager Scott Rakel said.

        Since it opened, the Wal-Mart has been drawing crowds, but not as large as other stores in more-urban communities, he said.

        “Weekends it just explodes in this store, but a lot of customers still don't even know we're here,” Mr. Rakel said. “It's in a suburban area. When the highway gets more notice and there's more commercial and residential areas here, we will blow up even more.”

        Additional businesses are coming, including the township's fifth restaurant — a Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar — two shopping centers and a massive retail building.

        But Bypass 4 isn't scheduled to be widened beyond its current two lanes for at least another five years.

        Township officials and other Butler County leaders have been urging the Ohio Department of Transportation to widen the road to four lanes sooner. But so far, the project date hasn't moved up.

        “It's a mess,” Fairfield Township Police Chief Richard St. John said of Bypass 4. “I don't know why they don't widen it. Bypass 4 is a continuing problem with congestion and volume of traffic.”

        To make way for shoppers, the intersection of Bypass 4 and Princeton Road is being widened from two lanes to six for about a quarter-mile. The western portion of the intersection has been improved but the eastern portion isn't scheduled to begin until June.

        So far, though, Chief St. John said, traffic is under control and hasn't been any worse than anticipated.

        “But Bypass 4 traffic is as heavy as ever and there's no relief in sight for that,” he noted.

        With the coming developments, traffic — which already has gone from 150 cars or fewer a day to more than 800 — is expected to double, said Ron Randolph, the township administrator.

        A retail building that could be as big as 150,000 square feet,is planned just west of the Wal-Mart, said David Birdsall, vice president of development for Regency Centers of Blue Ash.

        Ground just broke this week on two new strip centers, one 19,000 square feet that will hold the restaurant and six other tenants, and another, smaller center that will be 14,000 square feet, Mr. Birdsall said.

        The centers could open as early as this fall.

        Fairfield Township's population has jumped from 9,000 to 16,000 since 1991 and about 700 homes have been built in the last two years. By 2010, 20,000 people are expected, and by 2020, the township is expected to be built out with 25,000 residents, Mr. Randolph said.
        The Cincinnati Enquirer/MICHAEL SNYDER Construction of a Wal-mart “super-store” in Fairfield Township continues as crews work on the area.


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