Sheila McLaughlin reports:
Butler County commissioners and Liberty Township trustees each voted unanimously this morning to pave the way for Steiner + Associates to break ground on the much-awaited, $325-million Liberty Center retail complex.
The development would be the region’s second-biggest shopping draw, behind Kenwood Towne Centre.
Signing the master development agreement for the project frees up $25 million in contributions from Butler County and Liberty Township toward $60 million in infrastructure improvements. Previously, public contributions for the project were announced at $35 million.The agreement also calls for Steiner to back all of the public debt.
“Although this project is unique and one of the best, it’s probably one of the most restrictive agreements,” Butler County Commissioner Don Dixon said. “The possibility of this project ending up anything like the Kenwood (Towne Place) is almost non-existent.”
Dixon was referring to the unfinished Kenwood project along Interstate 71 in Hamilton County that stopped in late 2008, when contractors walked off the job because they weren’t being paid.
County commissioners voted 3-0 in favor of the master agreement with Steiner and to approve the infrastructure money. The trustees’ vote was 2-0 because trustee Dave Kern was out of town and absent from the meeting.
Construction at the site off Liberty Way at Interstate 75 is expected to begin either late this year or early 2014. In the meantime, Steiner expects to start tearing down the houses on the properties he bought at the entrance to the development. Liberty Center is expected to open in fall 2015.
Steiner on Thursday also announced two new partners to build office space and a hotel. Office space will be done by Columbus-based Daimler Group; the hotel by Middleton,Wis.-based Raymond Management Company, Inc., which exclusively builds Hilton and Marriott properties.
There is no word yet on which hotel brand will be built at Liberty Center.
Daimler, which has developed 7.5 million square feet of office space in Central Ohio in the past three decades, will build a four-story structure with 75,000 square feet of office space and 25,000 square feet of ground-floor retail at Liberty Center.
Dillard’s has already signed on to build a 200,000-square-foot flagship store and Cobb Theatres’ CineBistro is planning a 16-cinema complex with dining in some theaters.
The development also is to include restaurants, shops, park space and high-end apartments. The first phase will total nearly 1.2 million square feet over 64 acres and is expected to create about 4,500 new jobs and millions in sales and payroll taxes.
Yaromir Steiner, who heads the Columbus-based development company, now has to secure $250 million in private financing, which he said he had lined up but was contingent on the public infrastructure money. The township still must approve the final design plan.
Steiner has promised that Liberty Center will exceed his popular Easton Town Center in Columbus and The Green in Dayton.
“This is about trust,” Steiner told commissioners and trustees Thursday. “You are trusting us to deliver something and I want to tell you personally we will not embarrass you. It’s going to be a first-class act.”
The public financing will be split between the county, township, Steiner and a recently established “new community authority.”
According to the development agreement, the county will contribute $20 million and Liberty Township will provide $5 million. The community authority will generate $18 million in infrastructure money that would be paid back through assessments to tenants at Liberty Center and a half-percent user fee for shoppers and restaurant patrons.
Steiner, who is partnering with Bucksbaum Retail Properties in Chicago on the project, upped his portion of the infrastructure contribution to $17 million from $10 million reported previously.