Construction has started on the Union Village community in Warren County, one of the Dayton area’s most ambitious projects that is expected to grow over three decades into 4,500 homes, a sports complex, commercial services and up to $1.5 billion in private investment.
Over the next 30 or more years, the new community could house up to 12,000 residents. It will be anchored by the Warren County Sports Park at Union Village and is expected to include a mix of commercial development serving and complementing the residential neighborhoods.
“It’s going to be great for Warren County and southwestern Ohio,” said state Senator Steve Wilson, R-Maineville.“I’ve worked on it for a decade.”
The $15 million sports park is also under construction on 109 acres on the northwest corner of the development area. The “town center,” anchored by the main office building for Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices and 89 homes, will be built in the community’s first phase.
“It’s a whole different concept on how to live and work and play,” said Wilson, formerly head of LCNB Corp. and former member of the board at Otterbein, the retirement community developing the Union Village land around its main campus, which will become part of the multi-generational community.
“They are going slow, they are doing it right and it’s going to be a fantastic addition,” added Wilson, who is the husband of Otterbein SeniorLife President and CEO Jill Wilson. “It’s something that’s going to be fantastic for the community.”
Heavy equipment has begun working on the land for the first phase, across Ohio 741 from Otterbein SeniorLife’s main campus between Springboro and Mason.
Crews are laying sewer lines and grading off land where the first section is to be built.
Work also continues on the Otterbein campus, where the main building is undergoing major renovations with a new entrance on the north side of the campus.
The U.S Army Corps of Engineers is involved in approvals for parts of the project because the land once belonged to a Shaker community, and artifacts could be on the site. The artifacts could be traces from the community that lived on the land before selling it to the churches that established Otterbein, first as an orphanage.
Otterbein officials said they received final permission this week from the Corps of Engineers to push forward with the development.
“The Corps of Engineers is involved and must sign off on handling of areas deemed to be fertile ground for Shaker artifacts and/or the handling of wetlands are planned and executed appropriately, including water retention basins,” Gary Horning, vice president for marketing and communications at Otterbein, said in an email.
Similar steps are also being taken to keep an eye out for artifacts on the land set aside for the sports park.
Otterbein will demolish maintenance buildings and barns on the east side of Ohio 741 to make room for the first phase of Union Village.
On Wednesday, Otterbein and Ohio Department of Transportation officials said they had reached agreement to set aside a 110-foot right-of-way and designate multiple access points.
ODOT anticipated issuing a permit for the entrance, other access roads and trail into Union Village from Ohio 741, north of the Ohio 63 intersection.
Neighbors have responded to the activity with excitement.
“You’ve already got the sports park moving all kinds of dirt,” said Dan Cunningham, who lives on Ohio 63 and is part of a planning process for the area at and around Union Village. “Now we’re starting to see digging (for the first phase). “It’s got a big buzz in the neighborhood.”
Neighbors are anxious about what is being built, when stores such as Kroger will be opening in the commercial areas and perhaps most importantly when roads will be widened, Cunningham said.
“We all wish Otterbein well on their project and wish them success,” he said. “It’s just good for the entire community.”
Warren County Commissioner Dave Young said the construction signaled the start of decades of change on this large parcel of farmland in western Turtlecreek Twp., just west of Lebanon.
“This is the start of something very significant,” Young said. “I think we are all going be very proud of the ultimate outcome.”