Thursday, May 6, 2004

Retail-office center awaits vote

Council delays, planners vote against it

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CRESCENT SPRINGS - The fate of an office and retail complex that would replace a mobile-home park is now up to Crescent Springs City Council.

Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission staff has recommended against approval of a final development plan for the retail part of the $56 million Buttermilk Towne Center. The project, by Bear Creek Capital of Montgomery, Ohio, also would include offices and restaurants on a tract that is bordered roughly by Beechwood Road, Anderson Road, a strip retail center fronting Buttermilk Pike and Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks.

The project's critics, who include residents, business people and elected officials in three Kenton County cities, have said they're concerned about traffic and safety issues, a property tax break and the relocation costs for 129 people in mobile homes who would be displaced to make way for the project.

Planners want the city and developer to agree on a number of items, including size and location of signs before a final development plan is approved. Also, approvals must be secured for all road improvements and traffic control devices as specified in the preliminary plan approved by the city earlier. Another recommendation calls for linking a proposed "pocket park" bordering the railroad tracks behind Better Bodies with the proposed shopping center in the middle via a pedestrian walkway through the parking lot. Planners also called for construction of a clock tower so that it could double as a cell tower, if needed.

Monday's anticipated vote on the final development plan has been delayed, said Crescent Springs Mayor Claire Moriconi.

"None of this is insurmountable," said Greg Scheper, who handles acquisitions and governmental affairs for the developer. "I just think (planners) wanted to see some more I's dotted and T's crossed.'' He added Bear Creek is addressing issues raised by planners and still expects to break ground in July, if city council approves the project.

City officials can reject the plan, reject the recommendation of area planning commission staff, approve a plan with conditions, or do nothing. If council takes no action, the planners' recommendations would become final in 90 days, said Mike Schwartz, deputy director for current planning at the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission.

"A new concept, higher end" Remke's grocery and a second undisclosed anchor have signed agreements with the developer, and other tenants for seven retail sites are expected to be announced by the end of the month, Scheper said.

Bear Creek Capital also plans to finalize agreements with the mobile home park owner and a relocation specialist within days, he said.

"I know it's frustrating, not knowing (the details)," Scheper said. "We're trying to get something together as soon as possible that will offer (financial assistance) options to fit various situations.''

Scheper described the project as a shopping center with regional tenants.

"Architecturally, it's going to be more upscale,'' Scheper said. "I wouldn't say it would be a Rookwood Commons. It would be more like a Rookwood Pavilion or the Waterstone development in Mason. "It'll be a shopping center with nicer features, amenities like a clock tower and a pocket park."


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