Thursday, April 15, 2004

Plan seeks to transform barn

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

West Chester Township trustees are considering plans for the Muhlhauser barn to be reassembled into a three-story seniors activity center, conference center and performance hall.
Enquirer file/MICHAEL SNYDER
WEST CHESTER TWP. - The 123-year-old Muhlhauser barn soon could have a new life.

The 1881 barley barn, donated to the township by the Muhlhauser family, could be reassembled starting this fall into a three-story seniors activity center, conference center and performance hall in Beckett Park.

Township trustees this week reviewed a concept plan for the 45-by-100-foot barn and four new baseball fields on the east side of Beckett Road, north of Union Centre Boulevard.

The 50-foot-tall structure would have a basement dining room and kitchen, a main-floor great hall overlooking a new manmade lake and senior citizens' space and a gallery overlooking the great hall on the third floor, said designer Jose Castrejon from McGill Smith Punshon Inc., Sharonville.

Except for windows and a front portico, the original wood exterior would look much as it did as the Muhlhauser-Windisch Brewing Co. barley barn on Seward Road, Fairfield. It later was bought by the heavy metal band Kiss, which used it for a rehearsal hideaway, says Bill Zerkle, township parks director.

The Muhlhauser family paid $45,000 to preserve the lumber and slate roof, which says "G. Muhlhauser 1881," Zerkle says.

In recent weeks, township officials also have discussed adding a portable stage to the $3 million center so the big assembly room could be used for plays and concerts, Zerkle says. A new performance space in Butler County's most populous township is welcome news for local arts groups, says Ben Dibble, director of Children's Performing Arts of Lakota.

"Now it's very difficult for us because the only places for us to perform is in (Lakota) schools, and they're really used a lot, "says Dibble, whose organization has about 120 students in programs for string instruments and drama

Trustees on April 27 will decide whether to spend $546,782 for architect fees, a project manager and a new cover for lumber. If approved, crews would begin digging a lake at the site this summer, and using the dirt to grade new baseball and soccer fields, parking and an access road from Union Centre Boulevard. The project would be paid for with Union Centre tax increment financing funds, essentially increased property-tax revenue diverted into a special account for public improvements.

Trustees also have been asked to loan $1.1 million in tax-increment funds to the West Chester Baseball Organization to build four diamonds on 20 acres of Beckett Park. They would replace three fields on the 10-acre Basil Baseball Complex on West Chester Road east of Interstate 75, which will be sold for commercial development next year.

If completed by next spring, West Chester Baseball Organization will host the Continental Amateur Baseball Association World Series for 12-year-olds next year at Beckett Park. The group also wants to bring the National Amateur Baseball Federation tournament for 15-year-olds to Beckett Park next year.


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