Friday, March 12, 2004

Financing set for new mall

Development plan, bond issue OK'd by Crestview Hills Council

By Patrick Crowley
and Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CRESTVIEW HILLS - A Cincinnati developer expects to begin demolition of Crestview Hills Mall, which has been nearly vacant for much of its 20-year existence, by April 19 and have a new $90 million outdoor "lifestyle" shopping center in its place by Christmas 2005.

Thursday night, Crestview Hills City Council unanimously approved a financial agreement with developer Jeffrey Anderson Real Estate that has the developer paying the city $5,134,000 over 20 years. The payments are in lieu of property taxes the city is abating as part of the plan to attract the development.

Currently the city receives about $18,000 a year on property taxes on the mall.

Under the deal, the city will sell $90 million in industrial revenue bonds to build the new mall and hold title on it until the bonds are paid off by the developer in 20 years.

The mall will generate another $120,000 in other taxes, including payroll taxes, said Mayor Paul Meier.

Council also approved a development plan that will allow Anderson to begin planning the demolition of the existing mall and construction of the new retail center, said J.R. Anderson, the company's development director.

"This is a big step for us," Anderson said. "It allows us to move forward with a lot of things as we prepare to hopefully begin demolition April 19."

Dillard's, the only major retailer in the existing mall, will build a new store at the center. Its current store will stay open, but will be razed when the new store opens.

The center will be similar to Rookwood Commons in Norwood, an outdoor retail center that includes trendy shops, restaurants and retailers. No leases have been signed, but Anderson said many are close to committing to the Crestview Hills project.

Anderson has made one change from its original plan. In a location that was planned for a sporting goods store, an upscale grocer may take the spot.

Anderson would not confirm the grocer, but when asked if it would be Remke's market, he said "maybe."

Remke's, which is based in Northern Kentucky, has been rumored to be working on a new concept that would cater to upscale shoppers.

Because the design of the mall has changed, City Council said it wants to hear from residents who live nearby. So council will hold a special meeting March 25 at 7 p.m. The meeting will be open to any resident, but those living in the 2800 block of Campus Drive, which is adjacent to the mall, will be invited to attend.

"Those are the people who have to live with this project day in and day out ... and we should hear from them," said Councilman Joe Maloney.

Meanwhile, some of the 129 people who will be displaced for a proposed shopping complex in Crescent Springs protested at the Anderson Road entrance to the Crest Mobile Home Park Thursday. The four wore sandwich-board signs urging motorists to call Crescent Springs officials. They want the city to force the developer, Bear Creek Capital of Montgomery, Ohio, to give financial help to the soon-to-be-displaced residents.

Bear Creek wants to start building the $56 million Buttermilk Towne Center by July. Although plans for a federal grant for relocation assistance fell through, Crescent Springs Mayor Claire Moriconi said Bear Creek is exploring other options.

"We have a lot of handicapped residents and elderly people living back (in the mobile home park),'' said Pam Russell, a single parent.

"What's going to happen to all of us?"' Russell said. "Nobody will give us a straight answer."

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