New Austin Landing development hinges on court order

Springboro, developer talk about acres on south side.

City officials are ready to set aside a 10-year-old court agreement to spark development of the rest of Austin Landing.

Most people think of Austin Landing as the 142-acre development in Miami Twp., north of Austin Boulevard and east of Interstate 75, already home to hotels, office buildings, retail, restaurants, bars and soon to include a theater and apartments in a mixed-use planned community.

Some commuters are already concerned about traffic issues around the existing development, but Springboro leaders are anxious to see ground broken on the south side of Austin Boulevard, where 59 acres also part of the proposed development sit vacant, while office buildings, manufacturing facilities and other new projects spring up all around it.

In order to get things going, Springboro City Manager Chris Thompson said the city is ready to consider setting aside a consent decree reached in 2005, settling a lawsuit over efforts to build a WalMart there.

“Possibly the first discussion we would need to have would be to vacate that and determine what would be the best course for both the development and the city and the developer,” Thompson told the city council meeting earlier this month.

The decree ended years of litigation between the city and RG Properties, headed by Randy Gunlock, developer of Austin Landing. It bars a “big-box” store and “price point retailers such as Dollar General,” but allows for a gasoline-service station, “fast food” restaurant and a 110,00,000 square foot anchor store.

Canceling the terms of the consent decree, for example, would enable construction of a 125,00-square foot anchor store proposed in a 2012 concept plan included with a prospectus for the private investment fund that is to finance as much as $68 million of the development.

Thompson briefed the council on April 21 on her thoughts following a recent meeting with Larry Dillin, head of VisCap Development, which took over Austin Landing at the end of the year.

“It’s an honor to be charged with fulfilling (Gunlock’s) Austin Landing vision. To that end, VisCap will focus upon managing and completing the north side of Austin Boulevard and implementing a complementary plan for the south side,” Dillin said in a press release announcing the change in January.

VisCap took over development, leasing and management of the development still owned by Gunlock and the investment fund.

Already, VisCap has met with James Paresi, the architectural designer of the Levis Commons, a 400-acre mixed-use planned community in Perrysburg, Ohio, and other VisCap developments. But VisCap is only in the early stages of developing a plan for the Springboro portion of Austin Landing, a spokesperson said on Thursday.

“The south side of the road would be an extension of the north side of the road,” said Cheryl Dillin, who handles VisCap’s marketing and public relations.

“Think of it as 60 acres, plus the north side,” she said. “I know that’s how they are thinking of it.”

Larry Dillin indicated the meeting with Springboro leaders was his introduction. During the meeting, he said he learned of the history of the property, including the consent decree, and talked with local leaders about how they could develop something adding to the community.

“The planning for Austin Landing South has our attention, and we are focused on it,” he said.

Thompson told the city council that Dillin “needs some time to really get acquainted with the area” before finalizing his plan.

“We are very much looking forward to having him come back to us and tell us what he’s thinking,” Thompson said.

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